The Italian Minister of Defense has decided to go ahead and acquire F-35s for their air force, and decided on the purchase despite the coronavirus crisis.
According to some sources, spending on the F-35 program was almost shelved if it was not for the insistence of the minister of defense choosing priority, when the Italian economy is getting hobbled by the economy ravage by the coronavirus, confirmed by DefenseNews.
Lorenzo Guerini said that the program will continue despite the opposition from the Five Star party stopping the purchase of F-35, while Italy is recuperating financially from the expenses on the coronavirus crisis.
Guerini was interviewed by the Italian paper Formiche, Guerini state that expenses with defense was halved, especially in economic difficulty that is caused by the pandemic. He added that cutting the purchase of 90 planes will be detrimental to high tech jobs with fallout on industries too. Overall, the purchase will give an economic advantage to Italy.
Already there has been a delivery of 15 F-35 to Italy, that is composed of 12 F-35s with 3 F-35 B's, incidentally all the assembly of the planes will be completed at the Cameri Air Base in Northern Italy. This location is the maintenance center for F-35s in the country, according to SLDinfo.
The incumbent Italian Defense minister is a member of the center-left Democratic Party, that used to be a minor political party from coalition government just created last year. Before that, the Five Star co-governed with the anti-migrant League party.
When it came to the acquisition of the modern US F-35 multi-role fighter, the Five Star has been very critical of the F-35 program from the start. Before coming into power, the party was keen on ending the F-35 program abruptly, with a change of opinion when they were the incumbents in power.
In a way, the Five Star party has seesawed in regard to the F-35 procurement since.
When the coronavirus struck Italy, it prompted a lockdown in February of several provinces that close the economy with slow and gradual reopening happening. As of May 18, the government is removing most preventives during the pandemic. Italy suffered many deaths as a result and one of the most cases in February.
Lockdown were not kind to the economy that was ravaged by the COVID-19, affecting industries like manufacture and tourism that was a big earner of the GDP. Paying for wages is not easy with 10% shrinking economy in 2020.
An attempt was made by the Five Star to halt the approval of the F-35 acquisition, by sponsoring a suspension to fund more for health initiatives. One of the Five Star Representative said that negotiations and adjustments to purchases might be in order.
In the poll taken, 52% said it was China, next Russia 32%, and last was the US that got 17% that was not promising. An earlier poll done in 2019 had China by 42%, Russian at 17%, while the US went down 12% in the poll. Italians choose 36% for China, 30% for the US, as the preferred ally.
Beijing was courting the favor of the EU when it was taken in the coronavirus outbreak.
In 2019, Italy declared itself as part of China economic alliance, that got criticism from the US which deemed it more for China's benefit, according to TheDiplomat.
Continuation of the F-35 deal by the Italian Minister of Defence is an affirmation of his solidarity, with NATO and the US.