Italy still remains committed to the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program despite announcing plans earlier this year to slash its purchase quantity more than 30 percent.
The F-35 will provide a “much bigger capacity” over existing aircraft and will allow Italy to be at “the front edge of capacity with the United States,” Italian Defense Minister Giampaolo Di Paola said at during an April 30 speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.
Italy plans to purchase F-35A conventional jets for its air force and F-35B short take-off, vertical-landing jets for its Navy.
In February, Di Paola announced Rome — which has invested more than $3 billion in the Joint Strike Fighter program — would reduce its F-35 buy from 131 to 90 aircraft.
The F-35 program also came up when Di Paola met with U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta at the Pentagon on April 30.
Panetta “reiterated the United States commitment to developing the Joint Strike Fighter and the technology advancements both nations will receive as a result of fielding this 5th generation fighter,” George Little, the DoD press secretary, said in an email.
Panetta noted that the F-35B, which has experienced numerous development issues, has come off probation imposed by former Defense Secretary Robert Gates “after catching up to the other variants’ testing milestones,” Little said.
Other than the U.S. Marine Corps, Italy is currently the only planned operator of the F-35B.
Beyond the F-35, Italy still has plans for a military that is agile, sustainable and interoperable despite defense spending cuts, Di Paola said.
Rome will still need to “invest much more in situation awareness, in intelligence” and precision munitions, he said.