Saturday, August 6, 2011
Italy is Pulling Back
First to leave is the Italian aircraft carrier Garibaldi.
"We have cut back costs in Libya, from 142 million euros forecast in the first half of the year to less than 60 million for the second half," Defense Minister Ignazio La Russa said after a government meeting.
The news came after Italy's Cabinet moved to cut spending military spending.
The plan had been drawn up to pull the Garibaldi, its three fighter jets and 1,000 personnel out of the mission as they were "no longer necessary", La Russa said.
What will the future be for the Italian Air Force? Lt. Gen. Giuseppe Bernardis, Chief of Staff, Italian Air Force has in an interview discussed his view on "Unified Protector" and the Air Force future. Focus is of course the replacement of Tornado and AMX with F-35A/B aircraft.
Q. The Italian Air Force has planned to replace its AMX fighter bombers with the short-takeoff-and-vertical-landing F-35B, starting from 2014, before replacing its Tornados with the F-35A. But Defense Undersecretary Guido Crosetto has hinted that buying just F-35As might be the order of the day, given the delays in the STOVL program.
A. We still have a need for both an F-35A and B. The delay of the B is not a problem. We are ready to reconsider the whole thing in light of the probation period for the B. We are ready to switch to the A as the initial order. We do not forsee IOC [initial operational capability] before 2018 in Italy for either type, and the first ones will remain in the U.S. for training purposes. The buildup of the F-35A fleet would be at the end of the decade, as the Tornados draw closer to being phased out.
Q. One advantage of the getting the Bs first was that the AMX, which they are due to replace, will be retired before the Tornados. What happens if the AMX phaseout starts before the Bs arrive?
A. AMX phaseout will start gradually, and it is scheduled to take place without losing significant operational capabilities due to the fact that aircraft with the latest upgrades will be dismissed last. In this way, we will still perform all the assigned missions, only with fewer aircraft.
The UK has used their Eurofighters for strike missions. But Italy has focused on using Eurofighters for CAP - Combat Air Patrol to secure the NFZ - No Fly Zone. Initially this was performed by F-16 ADF. The air to ground missions have been performed by Tornado IDS and AMX. SEAD missions by Tornado ECR and IDS. Recce missions by Tornado IDS. Italy are planning to remove the Eurofighters altogether from Unified Protector since there is little need for fighters over Libya and instead increase the number of AMX involved. This is of course also a financial decision since the Eurofighters are more expensive to operate than the AMX.
The Italian Eurofighters have during June been on Iceland for training. Maybe they will support NATO in the air defence over the Northern Seas together with UK and Norway instead of the Libyan mission? In this way UK can focus more on the Libya mission.
Will Italy be able to continue with the introduction of both Eurofighter and F-35?
There is one big advantage by operating two different types of aircraft. If there is e technical malfunction that affects the whole fleet of aircraft there is an alternative solution to be able to continue flying. That is one of the major reasons why USAAF traditionally has been operating at least two different types of fighter aircraft and also why there are at least two different design bureaus involved in an offer to produce the next fighter aircraft. But this is also a very costly solution. Two aircraft types results in two logistic needs for spare parts etc and the need for training pilots and technical personnel on two types. However since Italy buys the aircraft together with other nations they can use other nations facilities for training and other nations logistics for international missions.
Tranche 3B of the Eurofighter development has been put on ice. This means no AESA-radar for the Eurofighter and bad news for UK/Italy company Selex Galileo. But since Italian Alenia Aeronautica is a member of the Eurofighter consortium, they will most likely put political pressure on the Italian government to continue with the Eurofighter upgrades. Italy has a big part in the Eurofighter production.
19.5% Italy (121). Alenia Aeronautica: Left wing, outboard flaperons, rear fuselage sections
Note: Italy has already cut down the number of Eurofighters on order from 121 to 96.
My guess is that the Italian Air Force will have to cancel their order of the F-35B. The rising prize of the F-35 in combination with the Italian bad economy will result in cuts in their Air Force. But there are Italian companies involved in the local production of F-35 and they will of course also put political pressure on the Italian government.
I also believe that it will be very expensive for the Italian Air Force to have both Eurofighter and F-35 with the same type of capabilities. Most probably the Eurofighters will focus on the Air dominance missions (as they have done so far during Unified Protector) with a second hand role of doing air to ground missions while the F-35 will focus on what the Tornado and AMX do well ant that is strike and recce missions. The Eurofighters will most likely never be upgraded to increase their air to ground capability. I am not exactly sure what Tranches the Italian Eurofighters belong to and if all will be retrofitted to Tranche 2 standard or only to Tranche 1 Block 5 standard by the R2 update program. Today only the UK has Typhoon FGR4 with capability to carry Litening Laser Designator Pods and Paveway Laser Guided Bombs. (The picture above is from flight testing).
Here is a summary of all Eurofighter Tranche and Block variants.
It will be interesting to see which aircraft manufacturer (EADS, Lockheed Martin) that has invested the most in Italian aircraft industry. My money is on that the Eurofighter will win this financial battle.
Together with the cuts in the Air Force Italy will most likely be one of the first nations to start cut their forces in Afghanistan. Today there are 4.200 troops in Afghanistan. Since Obama has set the time line for 2014 withdrawal, this gives the excuse for Italy to start removing their troops. The economy will in this case be a more decisive factor than actual success in stabilizing Afghanistan.
The bad Italian economy can affect Sweden's military operations as well.
- Italian withdrawal from Libya will increase the need for other countries to continue. Swedish Gripens fly 25% of all recce missions over Libya and deliver 37% of all photos produced. The UK has sent four extra Recce Tornado down to the Mediterranean, but there will always be need for intelligence. Maybe Italy can provide extra intelligence with their Raptor UCAV, but they are still not yet operational. This might also put extra pressure on Sweden to start using the Gripen in air-to-ground role, but I suspect that even if NATO asks for this type of capability, there will be no Swedish political will to do these types of mission.
- In Afghanistan the Swedish government is planning to remove the Swedish troops by 2014. The removal were planned to start 2011, but so far nothing has happened! On the contrary Sweden has sent down to HKP 10 Super Puma helicopters that will be replaced by HKP 16 Blackhawks in 2013 and there is ongoing plans to send down Shadow 200 UAV at the end of 2011. There has been very few political discussions on how the other nations troop removals will affect the security in Mazar-i Sharif and how to synchronize the Swedish removal with that of the others. If some nations, e.g. Italy start to emove their troops ahead of the major pull back, then other countries will have to take a larger part of the overall mission. Since the economy of Sweden is one of the strongest in Europe I would not be very surprised if NATO asks Sweden to increase rather than decrease the number of troops in Afghanistan until 2014.