* Italy cut F-35 order by 30 pct 2 years ago
* Renzi said Sunday more cuts likely
* Military spending review due by end-year
By Steve Scherer and Antonella Cinelli
ROME, March 19 Italy should put its order for 90
Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter jets on hold and probably
cut it "significantly", lawmakers in Prime Minister Matteo
Renzi's Democratic Party (PD) say, according to a party
The government has committed to spending an estimated 12
billion euros for the 90 radar-evading planes, but Renzi, who
announced 10 billion euros ($13.91 billion) in income tax cuts
last week, said on Sunday the order would be "revised" as he
seeks to reduce public spending.
A PD party paper seen by Reuters, which was distributed to
PD lawmakers on Wednesday by PD defence committee member Gian
Piero Scanu, says that the contracts should be frozen and that
"significant" cuts are probably needed.
The paper argues that the F-35 guaranteed Italy "no
significant industrial gains" and that its cost "cannot co-exist
with the needs of our public finances."
The 10-page document suggests increasing common European
Union defence initiatives and cutting spending on armaments and
technology by 1 billion euros a year over the next decade.
Italy's supreme defence council, including Renzi, ministers,
the top military commander and President Giorgio Napolitano,
agreed at a meeting on Wednesday that any cuts would not be made
before a comprehensive review of the country's military needs,
which is due to be completed by the end of this year. A
statement issued after the meeting did not mention the fighter
jet directly however.
The military review will be conducted by a committee of
military and civilian specialists.
Italy cut its order for the planes by 30 percent two years
ago to stem state expenditure during the euro zone debt crisis.
Italian media have said that several PD lawmakers have
called for the order, which has been dogged by technical
problems and cost overruns, to be halved.
Almost two-thirds of Italians deem the F-35 unnecessary, a
recent poll showed, but it is supposed to replace the country's
ageing fleet of fighter jets and further cuts could affect
maintenance contracts held by the state-controlled defence group
There is "a perceptible unease among the public when faced
with major military spending during a period characterized by
serious economic and financial difficulties," the PD paper said.
The euro zone's third-biggest economy suffered nine
consecutive quarters of recession from mid-2011 through the
third quarter of last year, and unemployment is at its highest
level since the 1970s.
Italy is also trying to keep the budget deficit within the
EU's limit of 3 percent of output and reduce debt while lowering
taxes as Renzi seeks to spur consumer spending and create jobs
in the chronically sluggish economy.
($1 = 0.7189 Euros)
(Editing by Susan Fenton)