FARNBOROUGH, England — As the F-35 makes its debut in the UK, an Italian think tank has claimed that if Italy had used the fighter in its 2011 air campaign against Libya it would have saved €100 million (US $110 million).
In a report issued on the eve of the Farnborough air show, the Rome-based ICSA think tank issued a report analyzing the cost benefits of the F-35 for the Italian Air Force, which is due to order 90 of the jets.
The report takes Italy's role in the 2011 NATO air campaign against Libya as a test case, analyzing the number and type of aircraft used.
The Italian Air Force participated in the international operation using Tornado aircraft, which deployed the Storm Shadow missile for the first time, and AMX aircraft, also for bombing runs.
Tornado ECR aircraft were used for air-defense suppression, while F-16s and Eurofighters flew no-fly zone patrols. C-130J and 767 tanker aircraft were used for refueling.
Italian Navy AV-8s also made bombing sorties from the decks of the Italian carrier Garibaldi.
The report pointed to the need for Tornado and other aircraft to be re-based to Trapani in Sicily to reduce flying distances to Libya, due to their limited range, adding that both 767 and C-130J tanking flights were still required.
If the F-35 had already been delivered to the Amendola air base in Italy, where it is due to be based, no re-basing would have been required for the aircraft, the report argued. The F-35B STOVL design, due to be ordered by Italy alongside the conventional takeoff and landing F-35A, would have been able to fly from land, doing away with the need to involve the Garibaldi, the report added.
Using the F-35 would also have reduced the need for so many types of jet and cut down on the need for airborne early-warning missions, ISTAR missions and tanking missions, the report said.
The end result would have been a saving of two-thirds on the €150 million cost of the mission, the report stated.