Italian Air Force AeroSpace Power Conference 2023
“The 3ᴿᴰ Dimension beyond 2023: reshaping Space & Time
100 years of boundless and disruptive relevance of Air & Space Power”

The third dimension is the quintessential operational environment for air forces worldwide. Thanks to technological progress, that environment today extends from the Earth’s surface to Space. Indeed, over the last decades, technological innovation has been incredibly transformative in two complementary ways.

On the one hand, it has dramatically increased the altitude of the vertical dimension. As a result, it has tremendously expanded the volume of airspace and outer space that advanced Air & Space Forces have to secure and protect. Hence the first need to “reshape Space”.

On the other hand, technology has recently made available new weapon systems that Western Air Forces have to face in order to defend their citizens, territories and democratic states. This is particularly true for hypersonic missiles and gliders, which require a much faster reaction than the current state of the art. Hence the second need to “reshape time”.

“Space” and “time” metaphorically – and physically – do combine into “speed”, which entails “responsiveness”. The latter is the key feature of Air & Space Forces that distinguishes them from other military instruments of power at governments’ disposal.

One hundred years after the creation of the Italian Air Force, Air & Space Power is more relevant and disruptive than ever. In fact, it seems to know no boundaries as it continuously expands.

This conference aims at shedding new light on the multi-faced implications of Air & Space Power with regard to defence governance, knowledge, capabilities and personnel. Fostering awareness of these implications is the best way for the Italian Air Force to keep adapting and remain an invaluable asset for the next 100 years.

In cooperation with Istituto Affari Internazionali, scientific partner of the Conference 

logo IAI

Friday 12 may 2023


Panel 1

  • Which challenges are shaping the future of air & space power?
  • How does the confrontation sought by Russia and China with the West influence the evolution of air & space power?
  • What is the value and effect of new capabilities?
  • Air & space power in Europe: more cooperation or more competition?
  • How is the space component being integrated in the deterrence posture?
  • New actors, emerging threats and evolving environment: how to manage complexity in space?


The panel will address the core elements of the Air & Space Power continuum, the underlying reasons for its renewed relevance and transformative character, as well as the challenges shaping its future evolution.

The Russian war against Ukraine has altered the international security environment and provides lessons to be identified not least concerning the Command of the Air – as the Italian general Giulio Douhet originally defined it over a century ago – and its relevance for any military victory.

New technologies enable a novel continuum between airspace and outer space, thus expanding the physical and technological boundaries of air forces’ operational environment.

As further developments unfold, new challenges and opportunities emerge requiring a more comprehensive strategy and policy. It is also necessary to adapt, improve and speed up decision-making processes in order to enable informed decisions in an age of information warfare while maximizing the responsiveness of Air & Space Power.

Alessandro MARRONE
Istituto Affari Internazionali (IAI)

Scientific advisor,
Istituto Affari Internazionali (IAI)

Raphael COHEN
Director of the Strategy and Doctrine Program of RAND Project AIR FORCE

Dean, Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies

Senior associate e adjunct fellow with the Strategic Technologies Program, Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS)

Juliana SUESS
Research analyst and Policy Lead on Space Security, Royal United Services Institute (RUSI)




Heidi SHYU
Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering of the United States


Panel 2

  • Capability vs capacity – A “quality trap”?
  • Speed of innovation – How fast? NATO & EU perspectives
  • The solution to A2/AD: technology or mass?


The panel will explore three issues that are key to understanding the role of innovation in structuring future air forces.

First, the trade-off between maximizing capabilities through investments in smaller numbers of expensive state-of-the-art air assets versus maximizing capacity by investing in higher numbers of more affordable legacy weapon systems.

Secondly, the organizational problems related to aerospace innovation depend on sustained investments, fast prototyping, rapid fielding of new technologies and therefore, ultimately, on agile organizations.

Third and last, the stalemate reached in Ukraine’s air war, which has resulted in an aerial no-man’s-land, has raised troubling questions on the necessity to invest in advanced technology in order to improve the survivability of air assets. Could mass be a complimentary answer to anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) threat?

ROMA 3 University 

Liran ANTEBI                                            Director of the Advanced Technologies and National Security Program, Institute for National Security Studies (INSS)

Justin BRONK
Senior research fellow for Airpower and Technology, Royal United Services Institute (RUSI)


Brig. Gen. Vincent CHUSSEAU
Commander, Centre d’Expertise Aérienne Militaire (CEAM)

Maj. Gen. Stefano CONT
Capability, Armament and Planning Director, European Defense Agency (EDA)


Chief Technology and Innovation Officer, LEONARDO


Panel 3

  • Investing in emerging & disruptive technologies (EDTs) and a war economy – A manageable risk?
  • International cooperation vs national sovereignty
  • Strategic R&D and military requirements – Can they be reconciled?


The past, present and likely future success of air forces largely depends on their access to key technologies and advanced weapon systems. This, in turn, makes the aerospace and defence industry a critical partner and player.

Increasing costs and complexity call for international cooperation. However, international cooperation entails interdependence and is therefore at odds with national sovereignty and autonomy. Allies and alliances, including industrial ones, are thus realistically due to become even more important in the future to manage interdependence.

Emerging and disruptive technologies offer enormous potential, but they are not devoid of risks. Throughout history, not all technological innovations delivered on their initial promises and not all disruptive technologies could be anticipated in a timely manner. If the past is any indication, this dilemma will not disappear.

Additionally, converting to a war economy – as highlighted by the current conflict in Ukraine – requires a constant and significant demand, which is not always politically feasible or economically sustainable, in particular considering that the resources required for such demand compete with research and development budgets.

This brings us to the last major question: the relationship between strategic research and development, on the one hand, and military requirements, on the other. Fine-tuning their different timelines and needs poses several challenges, but without a holistic approach including both of them, air forces will struggle to address the challenges of tomorrow.

Andrea GILLI
NATO Defense College

domitilla benigni

Domitilla BENIGNI
Chief Executive Officer e Chief Operating Officer, ELETTRONICA

President & CEO, BOEING Defense, Space & Security


Executive Group Director of Sales and Business Development, MBDA Group & Managing Director, MBDA Italia


Chief Executive Officer, AVIO AERO


Saturday 13 may 2023


Panel 4

  • Air & space power beliefs in 2035 – Definitely not a “long-range artillery”
  • System of systems integration – How complex?
  • Multi-domain operations (MDOs) – Who does what?


Air Power was initially developed to support land and maritime operations as a “long-range artillery” but has rapidly become the most decisive factor in warfare – from large-scale strategic bombing to surgical strategic strikes. Today, the weakness or absence of air & space power is a critical military disadvantage; no war can be won without it. Ukraine’s continuous demand for air power capabilities is only one example of its strategic importance.

The first panel of this conference focused on strategy and policy for air & space power. This panel seeks to identify what beliefs should inspire the related military decisions in a technologically revolutionized environment, by focusing on doctrine.

What do recent operational theatres such as Ukraine tell us about air & space power? Do we have enough valid examples of systems-of-systems application in real combat? How could we assess the effectiveness of Multi-Domain Operations (MDOs) or Joint All-Domain Operations (JADOs)? Do we have enough evidence to draw conclusions and identify lessons for young aviators as regards Tactics, Techniques and Procedures (TTPs)?

NATO Defense College

Gregory ALEGI
Professor, LUISS Guido Carli University

Maj. Gen. Claudio GABELLINI
Commander, Italian Air Force Aerospace Operations Command (COA)

Assistant Secretary General for Operations, NATO

Gen. James B. HECKER
Commander, NATO Allied Air Command

Gen. Hiroaki UCHIKURA
Chief of Staff, Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF)



foto benedetto vigna

Benedetto VIGNA
Chief Executive Officer, FERRARI


Panel 5

  • Manned vs unmanned aircraft – “Piloting” or “typing”?
  • Artificial intelligence biases vs cognitive biases – Who is better at spotting an anomaly?
  • Simulation vs actual training – What creates airmanship?


Findings from the previous panels will provide insights into what aviators might look like in the next 100 years. Looking ahead, will manned aircraft still dominate the beginning of the XXII century? If not, what are the characteristics, skills and defining features of future aviators?

Assuming that the profile of an aviator will be very different in the future, complex questions arise and this panel will look at training from different angles, starting with the trainees themselves, but also considering related tools, technologies, science, domains and topics.

EDTs such as artificial intelligence (AI) will certainly play a role in future air operations: the relationship and division of labour between humans and technology shall be defined, and the “human in the loop” equation shall be addressed. Will human enhancement play a role too?

In addition, do we need to train our personnel on human cognitive biases, so that AI can be trained to overcome them rather than transfer those biases through machine learning? What training can we envisage when “digital twins” become a reality?

If the reaction time is pivotal and the airspace perfectly merges with outer space to form a new operational continuum for air forces (the “aerospace”), will the aviator be more of a pilot, an astronaut or a cyber expert? Finally, digital training will gain importance as part of the training manual, both to cut the cost of live training and to simulate complex scenarios that are not replicable in peacetime. Will Western aviators develop enough airmanship with just a few flying hours?

Panellists will explore the complexity of this topic and wrap up the conference by offering a glimpse into the future.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Customer Support, Services & Training Director,, LEONARDO

Manager of Solutions – Flight OPS, CAE

Lt. Gen. Aurelio COLAGRANDE
Deputy Chief of Staff, Italian Air Force

Jeff Harrigian

Vice President of Strategic Campaigns for Aeronautics Strategy & Business Development, LOCKHEED MARTIN Corporation

Brig. Gen. Todd MOORE
Deputy Commander, USSF Space Training and Readiness Command