F-35, the No of Germany: Italy hesitates

The German Defense Ministry officially excluded the F-35 fighter from the race to replace its Tornado fleet. This is reported by Defense News.

A ministry official confirmed that the F-35 was not chosen in the competition to replace the 90 Tornado aircraft. The news was also reported for the first time by the German site AugenGeradeaus.

The news is not entirely surprising. Berlin has long shown greater interest in an updated version of the fourth generation Eurofighter Typhoon, built by a consortium of Airbus, Leonardo and BAE Systems. The main interest is to support European companies involved in the construction of fighter aircraft and, perhaps more importantly, to keep in line with the Franco-German momentum, after the Aachen agreements, in cooperation in the industry sector. for Defense.

However, the decision leaves the issue of certification for nuclear weapons open. The Typhoon is not certified to carry the American-made nuclear bombs that Germany, due to its strategic position, should be able to provide.

Before the German Ministry of Defense confirmed the lack of interest in the F-35, Reuters reported that the ministry was considering splitting the acquisitions between the Typhoon and the F-35 or Super Hornet.

Ordering the Typhoon and an American aircraft would make it easier to continue carrying out NATO's nuclear mission and would also support the European industrial base. However, problems arise in the logistics sector as the German Air Force is expected to keep two supply chains in place.

For this reason Germany is considering keeping some Tornado groups for nuclear capability alone, Karl-Heinz Kamp, president of the Federal Academy for Security Policy, a group of government experts told Defense News last August. . "That's why they will continue to fly Tornadoes, despite the cost of keeping them alive. In the meantime, we have asked Washington for nuclear certification for the Eurofighter".

Germany's decision however took F-35 manufacturer Lockheed Martin by surprise, who was not affected in any way by the ministry of the upcoming announcement.

"We have not been officially informed of the decision on the future fighter Germany," Lockheed spokesman Mike Friedman said in an emailed response. “The F-35 offers unrivaled value as the best performing and lowest cost aircraft over the life cycle, while offering the best long-term industrial and economic opportunities than any other fighter on the market. As the foundation of NATO's next generation of air power, the F-35 is today the most advanced aircraft in the world and includes much greater electronic attack capabilities than fourth-generation aircraft. "

The F-35 in Italy

Faced with the active participation in the program there is a certain reluctance on the part of the M5S, which, as noted, has always placed at the base of its electoral campaign, the exit of Italy from the program. An electoral choice that then clashed with reality. Therefore it was considered appropriate to further investigate the fifth generation fighter program, already used by the Italian Air Force. The solution, proposed by the Minister of Defense, Elisabetta Trenta, is to review the program by expanding the delivery times of those already purchased. 

The vice premier Luigi Di Maio, a few days ago, continues to hold all the insiders in suspense

"There is nothing decisive about F35, we at M5s believe that spending is useless and I say it here as we have said in recent months ". The deputy prime minister Luigi Di Maio pointed out to those who accuse him of not having kept his promise on the stop to purchase the military jets. "Every day there is a background that tells of a breakdown on F35 but I assure you that no decision has been made".

The purchase of new F-35 is a matter to be evaluated very carefully. This was stated by the Minister of Defense, Elisabetta Trenta, who took part in the episode of the “Otto e Mezzo” program broadcast on La7. "It is a twenty-year program and the due evaluations must be made with great responsibility. Among other things, the impact on employment and entrepreneurship must be taken into consideration ”, said Trenta, underlining that the dialogue on the issue is ongoing and proceeding as planned. “Until we make an official decision, not a single euro will be spent". 

Because Italy has chosen the F-35

The program was decided by the previous governments and approved in Parliament after several steps in the Defense Commissions. Basically we talk about replacing with 90 F-35 the operational capabilities that today express about 250 aircraft divided among a hundred Tornadoes, of which 52 will still be operating in the five-year period 2020-2025 (year in which retirement is expected) 132 Amx, of which 60 will still be in service in 2020, and finally 18 Harrier II. In 2009, with the awareness that our line of ground attack aircraft would become obsolete within a decade, the Defense Commission approved the acquisition program Formulated by the Government for 131 F-35 (69 F-35A and 62 B) for the total cost of 12,9 billion euros. As reported by The Eyes of War.

This number is subsequently reduced to 90 (60 F-35A and 30B of which 15 for AM) by the Monti government (2012) with a consequent reduction in costs compiled in the Multi-year Document for Defense (Dpp) for the three-year period 2013- 2015. Going into detail the estimate amounted to:

  • One billion dollars for the Development and Demonstration of Systems (Sdd) phase.
  • 900 millions of dollars for the next Production, Subsidiary and Development phase (Pfsd) to be allocated up to 2047
  • 465 million euros for national preparatory activities (infrastructure adaptation)
  • 795,6 millions of euros for the construction of the Faco (Final Assembly and Check Out line) of Cameri (No)
  • 10 billions of euros for the creation of the support and purchase logistics network

The F-35 already reality in Italy

The first two F-35A units were delivered to the Air Force in the 2016, while the first F-35B was recently delivered to the Navy. Italy in the 2018 has 10 aircraft: nine F-35A and only one F-35B. In version A only five are deployed in Italy, in Amendola, while four are stationed in the base of the American Air Force of Luke (Arizona), an international hub for the training of the Lightning II fleet.

F-35 program 

Launched in the USA to equip the three US Air Forces of an interforce hunt by tactical support, the aircraft F-35 Lightning II - then called JSF (Joint Strike Fighter) - it soon attracted the attention of other countries for its operational characteristics and the value of the industrial program. Eight nations so they decided to participate in the development: United Kingdom, Italy, Holland, Canada, Australia, Turkey, Denmark and Norway and two other countries, Japan and Israel, have decided to order some specimens.

The program activities started in the USA in 1994 within the JAST project (Joint Advanced Strike Technology) which envisaged the development of a new generation combat aircraft capable of combining technology that would guarantee long-term use with the possibility of replacing a wide range of aircraft with a single aircraft developed in several versions of the US military fleet.

At the first stage of technological exploration (Concept Exploration), followed by the phase of Concept Demonstration (from 1996 to 2001), to which Italy joined since 1998. In this phase of definition, the essential technologies were identified, to be studied and developed in the subsequent activity of construction of the prototypes and the manufacturer was chosen. destined to continue the program. In fact, in 2001 the contract was awarded, as a "prime contractor", to Lockheed Martin who, with his F-35, won the race. leading a consortium of which they are part, as main partners, Northrop Grumman e BAE Systems e Pratt & Whitney for the motor part.

Italy is the second most important international partner, after the United Kingdom. Our country contributes 4,1% to the design and development phases of the F-35. In Italy, at the Air Force base of Cameri (Novara), an independent production and support center for F-35 which in the future will be part of the Italian fleet. The industrial plant, currently the only one outside the American borders, consists of a final assembly and test line (FACO - Final Assembly and Check Out) which will also include a logistics center for the maintenance, repair and upgrading of F-35s in Europe  (MRO & U).

Leonardo - Finmeccanica, represented by Alenia Aermacchi, Selex ES and Oto Melara, is the key industrial player in the Italian program for F-35s and together with Avio - a leading national company in motorsport and other companies outside the Group - it has prepared to face a long-term industrial involvement to support the entire life cycle of the JSF.

Alenia Aermacchi is responsible for the production of the F-35 wing as a second production line in addition to the Lockheed Martin one, and has started the production of components for the final assembly line of the aircraft in the USA and Italy.. Based on the current total number of aircraft that are expected to be ordered, it is estimated that the volume of wings to be produced amounts to approximately 800 complete wings, in the 2014-2028 time frame, with deliveries of high precision components already started in 2009 , and delivery of the first fuselage-wing section assembly at the beginning of 2012. At the operations center in Cameri (Novara) all the infrastructures, machinery and equipment needed for the assembly of the F-35 aircraft were built. The assembly and test activities are carried out by Alenia Aermacchi in close collaboration with Lockheed Martin and the Italian Air Force, to exploit the combined experience necessary to carry out subsequent maintenance, repair and updating activities during the operational life of the fleet. .


F-35, the No of Germany: Italy hesitates