ROME — The head of Italy’s defense giant Leonardo has said there is a “great willingness” in Europe to bring countries together to launch joint defense programs as funding multiplies in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Leonardo CEO Alessandro Profumo predicted jointly planned and produced systems were increasingly in demand on the continent after years in which countries duplicated designs, leading to massive wastes of funding.

“It’s a process, it won’t happen immediately, but there is a deep willingness by political and defense players for big opportunities of this kind in Europe,” he told reporters in Rome.

Profumo’s optimism comes after some analysts argued that a rush to procure new weaponry in the face of the Russian threat will lead to hurried purchases of off-the-shelf kit, either domestically or from the United States.

European multi-national programs, they said, often evolve when budgets are tight and nations need to share resources, not when budgets are expanding as they are across Europe now.

While talking up the prospects of joint programs, Profumo said he did not believe they would immediately trigger cross border mergers between defense companies.

“I don’t think there will be full mergers, just many joint programs — but there could be the unification of business lines, like MBDA,” he said, citing the European missile consortium in which various companies, including Leonardo, have pooled their missile work.

“That could happen in other areas,” he said.

Meanwhile, he said he believed that Germany’s decision to spend an extra €100 billion (U.S. $109 billion) on defense would involve extra work for Leonardo, with the sale of Italy’s M-346 jet trainer to Germany a possibility.

He was also upbeat on the prospect of both Finland and Germany making use of Italy’s F-35 final assembly and maintenance line in northern Italy as they become F-35 customers.

Since the war started in February, Italy has also committed to raising its defense spending and hit the NATO spending target of 2% of gross domestic product by 2028, up from the current 1.4%, meaning it will add another €12 billion to its budget within six years.

Speaking last week in Rome, defense undersecretary Giorgio Mulé listed priorities for the extra spending as drones as well as cyber security and satellites — two investments he said would have dual-use applications in both the military and civil sectors.

Another area for investment with dual uses would be helicopters, he said, starting with Lockheed Martin’s Future Vertical Lift offering on which Leonardo is now teaming.

“That will be used by Italy’s civil protection agency for emergencies and disasters. These are assets that are born military, then become civilian,” he said.

Tom Kington is the Italy correspondent for Defense News.

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