Italy buys its first three F-35s. With a shocking announcement: "a JSF will cost less than a Eurofighter Typhoon"

On Feb. 7, 2012, Gen. Claudio Debertolis, head of the agency that is responsible for the procurement of new armaments, has announced that Italy has already ordered the first three Lockheed Martin F-35s.

Unit price: 80 million USD.

Talking to the lower house’s defense commitee, Debertolis explained that these first planes will cost more than the rest of the fleet since costs are going to decrease as the program, currently in Low Rate Initial Production,  continues. The Italian high rank officer is particularly optimistic, as he believes that the unit price will be around 70 million each (Lockheed Martin estimates 65M USD for the F-35A and about 73M USD for the F-35B), less than the 79 million USD currently paid for the Eurofighter Typhoon and much less of the 121 million USD per aircraft anticipated in 2011.

Quite surprising, since unit price is one of the JSF partner’s main concern, but possible, considering also that the Typhoon has just lost India’s mother of all tenders based on price.

Although there’s no official commitment yet, the initial requirement for Italy foresaw 131 examples (69 conventional take-off and landing F-35As and 62 of the short take-off and vertical landing variant F-35Bs). Debertolis confirmed that determining how many aircraft Italy will purchase is not a current task, since it will depend on the Defense Budget Review. Nevertheless, even if the number of aircraft will be much lower than the initial 131, the MoD will work to make sure that the industry will get the expected compensation.

Italy is working on stretching deliveries and slowing purchase  “a much easier task than that with the Eurofighter program, since the F-35 procurement is modular therefore delays don’t imply increasing costs” Debertolis said.

Furthermore with the recent Eurofighter defeat in India, Italy is going to stop working on the Typhoon and “divert” part (if not all) of its workforce towards the F-35, being assembled at the Cameri FACO (Final Assembly and Check Out) facility.

Finally, Debertolis has confirmed that Italy will have both A and B variants, with the STOVL (Short Take Off Vertical Landing) ones serving both the Air Force and the Navy, that will use them on the Cavour aircraft carrier.

In spite of the widespread criticism surrounding the program and the global financial crisis it looks like the F-35 has, if not a bright future ahead, at least good chances to survive the austerity measures of the new Monti’s technocratic cabinet.

Image credit: Lockheed Martin


About David Cenciotti 4451 Articles
David Cenciotti is a freelance journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written four books.


  1. So India chose wisely when it mattered its Air Force. I guess they did go for Dassault Rafael is because its made in one Country under one Manufacturer rather that EF which is made in 3 Different Country, where Costs could Escalate various ways.

  2. If Italy gets the JSF at that price ($80M), is it coming from a late LRIP or is it an early production run? The LRIPs JSF are going for more than a $100M a pop, how is Italy getting them for a lot less and who is picking up the difference? US taxpayer???

  3. One reason for instance could be, Italy does not pay development costs. As well invested in production costs.
    They already did have paid for this, invested, in development.
    Not level partners will have to pay extra for this, as well as paying for production costs.

    Don’t forget also, every LRIP series the price of a F35, till so far, got lower. For example the price of a F35 LRIP 3 and LRIP4.
    The Dutch for example did pay a lot less for their second F35A (LRIP 4) than their first ordered F35 (LRIP3)

  4. I think 70 millions could be the price of the bare airframe only, not counting the engine and the radar.

    • In a period of criticism and cuts (at least here in Italy) that price is quite challenging. To be honest, I’m not sure they’ll ever get it at that price but in a Press Briefing I’ve attended, Lockheed Martin gave more or less the same flyaway price. Maybe the current estimated costs are a bit too optimistics but I don’t think a 3-star general taking to the Parliament would give figures if they are not based on a credible evaluation.
      Let’s see what happens. For sure these are at least official figures.

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