Italians cut F-35 order in half

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.

  • Fabrizio Repetto

    not correct. The parlament passed a resolution in order to investigate the program’ and the balance of the italian requirement with the aim to cut in half the cost of the whole program. This must be achieved saving all the indistraal compensation and orders for italian factories ( something very hard to do…) . The cut is to be achieved on the planned costs of the original batch of 131 aircraft. The following reduction of the requirements to 90 in fact was never formalized by the Italian government. So this mean the probably the final number will be 75 ( 60A+15B). A cost Saving measure will probalby be a re – balance between the F35A and B, reducing the latter to just 15 for the navy, scrapping the Air force request of another 15 B models .