ROME, March 17 Italy may cut its order for 90
Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter jets as part of broad
reductions in public spending, Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said
late on Sunday.
Renzi said Italy was seeking 3 billion euros ($4.18
billion)in savings on its defence budget over the next three
years from closing barracks and from big-ticket items like the
"We will continue with our international programmes, we will
continue with a strong air force but that programme will be
revised," he said in an interview on Canale 5 television.
The order, scheduled to cost some 11.8 billion euros over 45
years from 2015, has been the subject of prolonged uncertainty
as successive governments have sought to bring strained public
finances under control.
The order has already been reduced from 131 aircraft and
many in Renzi's centre-left Democratic Party (PD), as well as in
opposition parties, would like to see it cut still further or
Italy, already struggling to keep its budget deficit within
the European Union's limit of 3 percent of gross domestic
product and saddled with the second heaviest debt burden in the
eurozone after Greece, is looking for billions of euros in
spending cuts in the coming years.
However cutting the order could affect Italian companies as
it includes maintenance contracts for state-controlled defence
technology group Finmeccanica.
The F-35, designed to be the next-generation fighter for
decades to come for U.S. forces and their allies in NATO, has
been hit by technical faults and is several years behind
schedule and 70 percent above early cost estimates.
In a separate interview on SkyTG24 television, Defence
Minister Roberta Pinotti said 385 barracks could be closed and
the size of Italy's military could be cut over the next 10 years
from 190,000 troops at present to 150,000 by 2024.