Italy Approves Purchase of 90 F-35’s

Today was a good day for the Joint Strike Fighter consortium of nations. In a vote of overwhelming approval, the Italian Senate moved to proceed with the purchase of 90 F-35’s. This vote follows an Italian Lower House vote which also reached the same conclusion.

This clears the way for economies of scale for the F-35, which will further drive down per airframe cost of the JSF for all nations. A hurdle has been overcome. Somewhere, Pierre Sprey is looking at a voodoo doll, wondering where it all went wrong.

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~ by arcturus415 on July 18, 2013.

4 Responses to “Italy Approves Purchase of 90 F-35’s”

  1. The Italian Senate and Lower House vote move to precede with the purchase of 90 F-35′s, the fact this clears the way for economies of scale for the F-35, which further drive down per airframe will cost of the JSF for all nations, is good news especially for Canada. This had begun consultations with aircraft manufacturers as part of a tortuous but necessary multibillion-dollar quest for a successor to the country’s aging fleet of CF-18 Hornets. Other planes that are being considered include Boeing’s Super Hornet, the French-made Rafale, the Saab Gripen and the Eurofighter Typhoon. Canada’s hunt for the jet fighter that will be most suited to its vast and varied geography and security requirements is somewhat akin to Brazil’s FX-2 new-generation fighter program which has been deadlocked over issues of performance, price and the scale of technology transfers to the buying country. The Canadian government to purchase 65 Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters for the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF).
    The Canadian government to purchase 65 F-35 has been a source of considerable controversy in public policy circles in Canada since the federal government announced its intention to purchase the aircraft in 2010. Eurofighter and Saab even offered their own fourth generation fighter jets – the Typhoon and Gripen, respectively – for much less than the cost of the F-35, but the Government of Canada stated that the F-35’s stealth was the best way to ensure that future Canadian Forces pilots could complete their missions and return safely. In April 2012, with the release of a highly critical Auditor General of Canada report on the failures of the government’s F-35 program, the procurement was labelled a national “scandal” and “fiasco” by the media. Through the Government of Canada’s investment in the JSF project, Williams says that Canadian companies were allowed to compete for contracts within the JSF project, as there were fears that being shut out from industrial participation in such a large program would severely damage the Canadian aviation industry. Joining the JSF project also furthered Canadian Forces access to information regarding the F-35 as a possible contender when it eventually plans to replace the CF-18 Hornet fleet. Improved interoperability with major allies allowed the Canadian Forces to gain insight on leading edge practices in composites, manufacturing and logistics, and offered the ability to recoup some investment if the Government of Canada did decide to purchase the F-35. As a result of the Government of Canada’s investment in the JSF project, 144 contracts were awarded to Canadian companies, universities, and government facilities. Financially, the contracts are valued at US$490 million for the period 2002 to 2012, with an expected value of US$1.1 billion from current contracts in the period between 2013 and 2023, and a total potential estimated value of Canada’s involvement in the F-35 program project from US$4.8 billion to US$6.8 billion. But truthfully with all the alleged problems with F-35 program and the way Stephen Harper’s conservatives here are I honestly do not expect them to pick anything but the F35 regardless of which aircraft is actually the best aircraft for Canada. I myself for cost effectiveness would like them to either buy a total of 130 Superhornet along with Gripens and 30 F-35. Canada has a history of having more than one type of aircraft and I think we should consider doing the same again. There has been a lot of talk on Canada’s defence scene about a next generation aircraft based on Avro Arrow technology and the possibility of a made-in-Canada solution for the replacement of the CF-18 called The Super Arrow which could be an cheaper, faster, more efficient alternative to the F-35 but the concept was briefly looked at by the government and dismissed.

    • The F-35 is the logical pick for Canada. In the running, and I use that term loosely, you have offerings from Eurofighter, Boeing, Rafale, and Saab. The Saab, from its lower price point, looks good at first glance. What I find particularly amusing is the glossing over of the single engine issue. While, in many circles, that is a fatal flaw for the F-35 as far as Canada is concerned, the Gripen is also a single engine aircraft.

      The Super Hornet is an aircraft with room to grow, but that growth is limited to a degree. Projected trainings and maintenance savings from induction of the Super Hornet simply do not exist, making a mockery of several arguments being put forward in this debate. Super Hornet suffers from the same issue that the Gripen, Eurofighter Typhoon, and Rafale suffer from. THey are all 4th generation airframes. Procuring a last generation airframe as the future of the RCAF is a losing proposition.

      As for the Eurofighter Typhoon, it is admittedly a very capable platform. Upgrade development though, has been problematic from Typhoon’s induction into service, and promises to be more so in the future. Two things to consider, savings from initial purchase will not be found, as the F-35’s cost per airframe has dropped, and will continue to drop further. Eurofighter will be more expensive on a per airframe basis than the F-35. Maintenance is also a huge cost consideration. Cost per flight hour is a problem for this airframe. Take note of Germany offering to sell many of their to the Swiss, and the early removal from service of airframes by the Royal Air Force. While its capable, it isn’t the airframe that will best suit Canada’s needs moving forward.

      When considering Rafale, take a look at its record in procurement competitions globally. Yes, India seems poised to finalize their deal for one hundred and twenty six airframes, but that contract is still in limbo. Rafale is capable, but we come back to the issue of it being a 4.5 generation airframe.

      A mixed buy of Super Hornet and F-35 airframes would be a good move. Canada’s defense budget might not support that though.

      The Avro Arrow is a design that its impossible not to be romantic about. Unfortunately, its a design that is ancient history. Any program to produce an updated and redesigned Arrow would end up costing Canada far more than a large scale purchase of F-35’s.It all comes back down to Canada’s defense budget. Arrow was an interceptor by design. For today, it would be the wrong plane for the wrong time.

      Reopening aircraft evaluations is great for headlines and internal politics, but it will not change the likelihood of Canada procuring F-35 airframes.

  2. What all these countries really need is an F-22 with ground attack capability but no one including the Americans would be able to afford them. The F-35 is a good lower cost compromise. Buying less expensive obsolescent aircraft is not a good value because the effective service life would be short. Don’t forget that only a handful of people with security clearance know the details about the F-35 and the rest of us really don’t. The Italians have made the sensible choice.

    • What I would have loved to see was a reutilization of the YF-23 concept, morphing the basic airframe into an FB-23 platform. The F-22, going through incremental upgrades 3.1 are receiving a limited ground attack capability, with use of the SDB-II. Greatly expanded production of the F-22, for US and international use, would have been just what that program needed. Export restrictions made that an impossibility.

      I agree with you, in that Italy has made the sensible choice, and a choice that invests in the future. Investment in available alternatives, be it Rafale, Typhoon, Gripen, or the Super Hornet, is an investment in an aged design with limited upgrade potential in comparison to the F-35. This truly has been a year full of good news for the JSF program.

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