Italy to Cut F-35 Fighter Jet Orders as Part of Defense Revamp

Italy to Cut F-35 Fighter Jet Orders as Part of Defense Revamp

Italy will reduce its planned order of Lockheed Martin Corp. F-35 fighter jets and trim the size of the military as part of defense-spending cuts, Defense Minister Giampaolo Di Paola said.

Italy will purchase 90 F-35s rather than the originally planned 131, Di Paola said in Rome in testimony before a joint defense committee of both houses of Parliament today. The nation needs to cut the military’s size by about 30,000 soldiers and 10,000 civilians, he also said.

Di Paola said Italy “has already invested 2.5 billion euros” ($3.3 billion) in the F-35, parts of which are to be provided by Finmeccanica SpA, the nation’s biggest defense contractor. “We had committed to buying 131, now the review of the program leads us to believe that the goal of 90 aircraft can be pursued, a third less,” he said.

The announcement is another blow to Bethesda, Maryland- based Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the U.S. military’s costliest program. The U.S. Defense Department will cut $1.6 billion from the F-35 program, part of $18 billion in weapons cuts proposed in the budget that President Barack Obama sent to Congress on Feb. 13 for the year beginning Oct. 1.

Source: By Chiara Vasarri, 15 February 2012 - Bloomberg News (http://www.businessweek.com)

Photo: Edwards AFB Lockheed Martin F-35A Test Aircraft: All six F-35s currently at Edwards AFB, Calif. for flight test: AF-1, AF-2, AF-3, AF-4, AF-6 . (Photo by Lockheed Martin)

Photo Story:
Italy has decided to reduce its F-35 order to 90 aircraft, while Norway says it has been reassured by Lockheed that the program is on time and on cost.
It is unclear how effective a fleet of 90 aircraft will be as the aircraft will have to be shared between the Italian air force (F-35A) and navy (F-35B).

The navy originally intended to buy 32 F-35Bs to equip its two aircraft carriers, one of which, the Cavour, is the centerpiece of Italy’s Mediterranean security policy. If this number is reduced, there will be enough F-35Bs to equip only one carrier, while it if is maintained the air force, with 58 aircraft, will barely be able to form a single F-35 wing, once aircraft are deducted for the training and conversion unit. Given that the F-35’s price will likely continue to grow, it is not clear that Italy’s investment in the F-35 will be militarily justifiable and financially affordable.



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