* Italy cut F-35 order by 30 pct 2 years ago
* Renzi said Sunday more cuts likely
* Italy must keep deficit in check while reducing taxes
By Antonella Cinelli and Steve Scherer
ROME, March 18 Italy's review of its military
needs and possible cuts to its order for 90 Lockheed Martin
F-35 fighter jets will be decided by the end of the
year, Defence Minister Roberta Pinotti said on Tuesday.
Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, who announced 10 billion euros
($14 billion) in income-tax cuts last week, said on Sunday the
radar-evading fighter planes order would be "revised" as he
seeks to reduce public spending.
On Tuesday, Pinotti said that before a decision on the plane
orders was made, she would draw up a "white paper" that
prioritises defence requirements.
"We can finish by December," Pinotti said in testimony to
The government is now committed to buy 90 of the warplanes
for a total of 12 billion euros, but there is broad political
support for further cuts to the programme, which almost
two-thirds of Italians deem unnecessary, a recent poll showed.
Italy is trying to keep the budget deficit within the
European Union'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.
But Italy is a member of the North Atlantic Treaty
Organisation with an ageing fleet of fighter jets that is
supposed to be replaced by the F-35, and further cuts could
affect maintenance contracts held by the state-controlled
defence group Finmeccanica.
Italy's highest-ranking military official Luigi Binelli
Mantelli said on Tuesday that the armed forces were already in
the process of reducing personnel by more than 20 percent by
"I challenge any other (public) administration to plan
50,000 job cuts in 10 years," Binelli Mantelli told reporters at
a conference in the capital.
Renzi said last week that defence spending would be cut by
3.7 billion euros in 2015-16, while a table of planned cuts
published by Italian media on Tuesday put cuts at 4.3 billion
euros, but gave no details.
"Further cuts can be made, and definitely there must be
courage to get rid of the old and focus on what is most
important," Binelli Mantelli said. He did not comment on further
cutbacks to the F-35 orders.