Italy has decided: F-35s to be cut by more than 30 percent.

More technology, less personnel and only 90 F-35s: this is the outcome Italian Defense spending review.

On Feb. 15, the long awaited Italian Defense spending review was finally presented to the Parliament by the Minister of Defense Giampaolo Paola.

“Long awaited” because the review was supposed to shed some light on the future of the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II in Italy: Rome’s commitment to the program (as a Level 2 partner with 2.5 Billion Euro already invested and an original envisaged requirement for 131 planes) is important to keep the troubled and costly stealth multirole jet affordable.

The reform seeks to balance the spending for personnel, operations and investment, to ensure the future financial sustainability and operational effectiveness of the armed forces. In simple words: cuts to personnel and programs with the long term goal to cover the personnel spending with half the allocated budget (worth 0.9 percent of the GDP) and use the remainder between operations (including training and maintenance) and procurement (25 percent each) of advanced technologies.

Therefore, along with the reduction by 43,000 people to abate the current 70 percent of the overall defense budget for spending on military personnel, the review has led to the revision of the some important programs. First of all, the much criticized F-35 program.

Accordingly, 41 aircraft will be scrapped leaving the Italian Air Force and Navy with only 90 F-35 in the A and B version. The latter, recently removed from probation, will replace the Navy’s AV-8B+ Harrier II on board the Cavour aircraft carrier as well as the Air Force’s AMX, both involved in the recent Air War in Libya.

“The F-35 program was reviewed. Nevertheless it remains a major commitment in terms of technology, technology transfer to the industry and employment” Di Paola said few days after placing the first order for three F-35s.

Digital mock-up by Al Clark

About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a 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 five books and contributed to many more ones.


  1. This has been the elephant in the room for defense establishments across the globe for the last several decades. Modern weapon systems are steadily becoming unaffordable, to the point where even routine non-combat operational attrition has a huge financial impact. It is this factor, tied to the spectacular advances in information technology, that is driving the “drone-ization” of modern warfare. Large inventories of aircraft, warships, and tanks are a thing of the past.

    • Yes.
      Someone told me: what if Italy gets out of the financial crisis? Will it order more F-35s than the current 90?
      My answer was that by the time Italy will get all its 90 F-35s, UCAVs will be a reality.

  2. I am now very curious to see how many aircraft in the “B” variant will get the Italian Navy ….. and if the Italian Air Force will succeed in obtaining, in addition to those in the “A” variant, a quantity of them as it wished.

    • The initial requirement was for both A and B variants for the ItAF hence I expect the service to get both. Dealing with the Navy, it will likely get 15 out of 22 planned because it is quite probable that the 31 percent cut will be applied in the same way to both armed forces.

  3. I could be wrong ….. but ….. it seems strange to me that the Italian Navy, which now owns an aircraft carrier which is much more capable than the old “Garibaldi”, may receive a smaller number of new aircraft compared to those which previosly owned …..

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