Italy will not buy more Lockheed Martin Corp F-35 fighter jets and is mulling whether to hold on to an order to which the country is already committed, Defense Minister Elisabetta Trenta stated in a television interview with La 7 broadcaster. Italy will not buy other aircraft, adding that the order for 60 F-35A and 30 F-35B fighter jets, which Italy concluded in 2012, might be placed under review. Trenta comes from the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement which has always been critical of NATO member Italy’s order for 90 of the planes, saying the money could be better spent to boost welfare and help the sluggish economy. She also mentioned advantages in terms of technology and research in Italy associated with the planes, as well as jobs that would be lost. However, Trenta noted that she saw merit in expanding the purchases in order to liberate resources for investments in European defense projects.
The fact that the cancellation of the bulk deal and the resulting “strong financial penalties” might cost the Italian budget a hefty sum is one of the main reservations that is holding the government back, she explained. The termination of the contract can negatively impact Italian workers who are employed in the production, she said, listing other merits of the deal such as “technological activity” and “important research” in a Facebook post accompanying the interview. Italy became the only country with an F-35B assembly line outside the US. Back in 2012, Italy already downsized its initial order for 135 jets to 90 as it was battling with a sovereign debt crisis. In May 2017, it rolled out the first jets. However, they had to be delivered to the US Navy base in Maryland for certification and crew training. The line in Cameri is set to produce a total of 30 F-35Bs to be delivered to the Italian Navy, Italian Air Force and the Royal Netherlands Air Force.
the Aeronautica Militare (AM, Italian Air Force) was the first air arm in Europe to formally introduce the F-35A to the country’s national air defence network. Since March 1, Lightning IIs of 32° Stormo at Amendola have been a fully operational component of the Servizio di Sorveglianza dello Spazio Aereo (SSSA, Airspace Surveillance Service). As well as AM F-35A operations, the unit carries out operational, training and technical activities for the air arm’s Predator remotely piloted aircraft fleet and trains RPA pilots in the MB339. Several countries have signed contracts for the purchase of F-35s, such as Turkey, Israel, Norway, Japan, Netherlands, the UK and Australia. The total cost of the F-35 program over its existence has been around $1 trillion, the Government Accountability Office reported earlier, citing Pentagon estimates. The F-35 is the Defense Department’s most expensive purchase program and is more than $200 billion over budget and will require acquisition funding of $12.7 billion a year, on average, through 2038.