How was it moving from flying Eurofighter to flying a desk?
The specific ‘desk’ I have at Leonardo is as their Senior Advisor for Marketing Strategic Campaigns. This is one of the most challenging and exciting tasks of my career. It has been a particularly interesting time to make the switch when you consider the current technological evolution of the Eurofighter Programme, and the debate around the future combat fighter solutions. The Eurofighter is one of the best air superiority aircraft available on the market now, it was originally developed in response to Cold War requirements at the time. Since then, it has evolved to feel at home in networked war scenarios and it is further developing and improving its multirole combat capabilities, sensors and software in order to gradually bridge to the next generation of combat systems. I started my career in the programme as a pilot and I truly loved to fly this aircraft. Now, I am excited to be in a position where I can support the programme and contribute with my experience to shape Eurofighter’s future operational development as well as supporting its marketing perspectives.
Tell us about the practical difference you can make in your role.
Promoting Eurofighter in foreign markets is a team effort led by an orchestra which includes the Country Systems, Programme Partners’ Governments and of course the Partner Companies. However, even in this complex and integrated environment, there are still moments when the pilot to pilot interpersonal relationship is crucial because it provides reliable first-hand arguments to discussions. During these occasions, my previous career and experience enable me to bring a certain credibility to the table. An example of that was clearly illustrated when we were in a campaign meeting with a potential export nation. There was a large delegation from Leonardo on one side and on the other the Chief of Staff of the Air Force with his senior team. After the formal talks, the Chief of Staff came up to me directly and asked: “As a Eurofighter pilot, and as former Deputy Chief of Staff, what are elements of your operational experience you could mention to convince me to buy this aircraft?”. The discussion then moved towards operational aspects in the current and in future scenarios with a very practical and solid focus: he listened to me because we were speaking the same language. We chatted together as two pilots and two officers and there was a real trust between us. He was very keen to hear what I had to say about the Eurofighter and very much focused on understanding what it is like to fly the aircraft, what its characteristics are, how it compares to rival aircraft and how I observe its evolution towards future operational scenarios. He was asking very detailed and specific questions.
This is one of the situations where I can add real value, thanks to a specific pilot-to-pilot language: he was not talking to me as a representative of Leonardo but as a former pilot. It is a question of trust and credibility.
How has your experience flying Eurofighter shaped your interaction with business colleagues when discussing programme issues?
That is probably a question for my colleagues — they are better placed to talk about our interaction!
However, from my perspective, as a long-term pilot, I am convinced that my colleagues can take advantage of my experience of flying a wide range of operational aircraft, including Typhoon, over the last 40 years. This experience means I can provide an additional value in support of the Eurofighter’s Long-Term Evolution plan that aims to evolve the Typhoon as a very flexible effective swing role new generation machine. I had the opportunity to fly in two different roles, air-to-ground and air-to-air, which are the two capabilities we will combine in the Eurofighters of the future. So the more I can draw on my varied operational experience, the greater the benefit to the business.
I think it is important to have someone who has the experience of flying working side-by-side with the commercial teams. This is the best way to present Eurofighter in the strategic campaigns. The cooperation here has been immediately mutually beneficial because it’s helped shape a common mindset that is centred on effectiveness and on how best to respond to emerging challenges.
How has your view of industry changed over time?
For sure, it has changed a lot. In the first part of my career, my pilot’s mindset was purely focused on my mission. Over the last decade, my view of industry has evolved. I observed a deeply changed relationship between air force and engineers. Nowadays that has been consolidated and is stable, which really helps the air force to transmit its requirements and receive feedback and solutions more efficiently.
This cooperation between air force and industry has led to the development of a new generation training system for future combat pilots, which is recognised worldwide as excellent. It also led to the advancement of the most reactive logistics support model for the fleets and the most effective technological development in the aeronautical programme at strategic level.
As Deputy Chief of Air Staff, I observed the development of a more and more integrated and strategic co-operation mindset with the industry. Today, this has helped to consolidate an outstanding level of teamwork: in Alessandro Profumo’s Leonardo, the Air Force and industry constantly confront and share their visions for the future, making the knowledge exchange continuous and productive. It allows the industry to focus their technologies and investments to ensure particularly effective developments.
What can industry learn from ‘incoming’ practitioners?
One thing air forces share is a ‘multinational cooperation’ mindset. This is the most relevant value that industry can learn from the day by day work of Western Air Forces. They’re used to it, under the NATO framework and more recently in the various operational coalitions.
Nowadays, being an airman demands a variety of skills which are transferable in important international commercial environments too. These competences are part of what ‘incomers’ bring, as well as an understating of the operational doctrines developed by the Air Forces. This kind of knowledge is a paramount when considering future operational scenarios and how to best direct huge investments in technologies.
In this sense, I believe that for this aircraft the best is yet to come. Typhoon remains resilient to emerging threats, while continuing to reinforce its advanced electronic warfare systems and the transmission and utilisation of ever-increasing amounts of both on-board and off-board data. Indeed, Eurofighter’s weapon system is designed for constant evolution and enhancement. Industry can learn a lot from former operational pilots, and “incoming practitioners” can reinforce Industry / Air Force strategic cooperation. With joined forces, Eurofighter enhancements will improve and change the capabilities of the aircraft, further developing its potential and maintaining its ability to operate in the highly contested and congested future operating environment.
Did you ever anticipate you would end up working for Industry?
No, not really, I had never really given it much thought. It was only in my final months that both the Air Force and Leonardo started talking about the value of having someone with my profile and my experience to help both sides. It is a challenging role but I enjoy it.
During the last part of my career I was the Italian Air Force representative on the Eurofighter steering committee, and, having known the programme in detail, I’m one of the biggest supporters of its strong future path, thanks to the Long Term Evolution and its continuous ability to respond to the market. A solid second youth attends the Eurofighter programme — from both a capability and commercial perspective.