Lockheed Martin today reaffirmed that its F-35 fighters contract with the Italian government stood at 90 aircraft.
Defenseworld.net had earlier reported based on local reports in the Italian media that the order had been pared down to 45 aircraft.
A Lockheed Martin spokesperson said in a statement, “While there have been a lot of reports in the press, Italy’s program of record remains at 90 F-35s. The first four Italian jets are in assembly in Fort Worth, Texas and Cameri, Italy, where there is a final assembly and check-out facility.”
The statement also said, “Italy is a valued partner on the F-35 program. Since the program’s inception, all partner countries as sovereign nations, periodically review their security and defense needs. We understand and respect this decision-making process”.
The previous Italian government has cut its initial order of the 131 aircraft to 41 in 2012.
In an April 18 decree, Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said that savings from the F-35 program would contribute to a 10-billion euro tax cut, and that the program would be “remodulate.” This year, the only change to the program is a reduction of 153 million euros, the decree stated.
Meanwhile, Australia on Wednesday announced it will acquire 58 additional F-35 Joint Strike Fighters (JSF) at a cost of $12.4 billion.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Defense Minister David Johnston announced the move in a speech in Canberra today, and said that the aircraft would be delivered to Australia by 2023.
This will bring Australia’s total F-35 fleet numbers up to 72 after an initial pledge to purchase 14 F-35s back in 2009. Australia also holds an option to acquire a further 28 JSFs in the coming years.
“This is a system that can detect adversaries at quite a phenomenal distance and is stealthy so it is very, very difficult to find,” Johnston said. He later added: “We see this aircraft as providing everything Australia needs in terms of aircraft capability until about 2050.”
Italys new government has decided to halve its procurement F-35 fighters, from 90 to 45, but will stretch out its implementation to limit any losses of related work for its aerospace industry, the Rome daily La Repubblica reported April 22. According to the report, the 45 remaining aircraft would be slightly less than the 131 that Italy initially planned; a previous government had already cut 41 aircraft from its planned order in 2012
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