PARIS --- Italy will continue as a full member of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, and the government intends to confirm its F-35 fighter investments, Reuters reported today from Rome.
In an interview released this morning, Defence Minister Lorenzo Guerini told Il Corriere della Sera that “Renewing our fleet is a need that cannot be postponed,” adding that “I can assure you that Italy’s participation in the F-35 programme meets the objectives of effectiveness and efficiency of the military instrument.”
Guerini, a member of the Democratic Party (PD), part of the governing coalition with the 5-Star Movement, did not provide any additional information, and notably did not explain how this will be managed given the 5-Star’s long-standing opposition to the F-35. He also did not say if the financial backlog had been paid.
Italy originally planned to buy 131 F-35 aircraft, but later reduced its order to 90 aircraft: 60 F-35As for the Italian Air Force and 15 F-35Bs each for the Air Force and the Italian Navy.
Luigi Di Maio, leader of the 5-Star Movement, said last year that F-35 fighter jets were not a priority, and that the programme had to be reviewed in 2019, Reuters said.
Italy’s previous defense minister, Elisabetta Trenta, a member of the 5-Star, had frozen payments to the F-35 Joint Program Office, and had not confirmed a follow-on order due this year.