Lieuwe de Vries and Ruben Veenstra for Veenstra & De Vries Aviation Publishing
Last week, the Italian lower house approved a motion to cut the acquisition budget for the F-35 in half. Rome decided to buy 131 jets in 2002 but lowered this amount in 2012 to 90. Now, it looks like the Italians are going to fly about 45 F-35s and effectively buying a third of the original amount and degrading from a “flagship partner” to “best of the rest” with an order that barely exceeds that of countries like the Netherlands.
As a result the Italian Aermacchi Alenia factory is losing a great deal of it’s prospective business. A factory built especially for the assembly of the Joint Strike Fighter and with a price tag amounting in the billions. And with the danger of not enough profits to merit the investments, the Italians are very likely eager to look further than just assembling the F-35 and possibly endangering Dutch maintenance contracts.
For years, the Netherlands had a Memorandum of Understanding with the Norway and Norway wich sorted out who did what on the Joint Strike Fighter. Italy would assemble the jets and the Dutch and the Norwegians would provide maintenance (the Dutch would get to work on the engines and Norway on subcomponents). However, in 2013 the Norwegian government stepped out of the MoU in the hopes of attracting more contracts on its own and thus competing with the Netherlands for maintenance on the engines and other parts. In the meantime Pratt & Whitney, who designed and manufactures the engine, gets the fattest bone by having signed off letters of intent with the Dutch and the Norwegians on building maintenance centers in both their respective countries. For the Dutch industry certainty is still miles away.
Translated from our Dutch article.