In 2001, F-35 JSF (Joint Strike Fighter) Program started by a ‘successful’ Lockheed X-35 project for a initial expected cost of 40 million dollars and a production of 3,000 jets for USAF / U.S. Navy / USMC and another 2,000 for some partners (source http://www.aereimilitari.org).
Italy was involved as a “second level partner”, setting up a line of construction and assembly, which would release much of the F-35 destined for Europe and other countries, such as Turkey and Israel, including only twenty F35 for Italian Navy.
A rich business for our industries and – on 28th May 2007, at the Defense Ministry in Rome – the Secretary of Defense, Lorenzo Forcieri, met the President of the Province of Novara, Sergio Vedovato, to determine the ‘settlement of the assembly line of the F35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft at the little military airport of Cameri (Piemonte Region).
A small-town dream cherished for decades, assuming anyone wish spent money and time in Piemonte to turn a short track – at time closed by fog for several months a year – in the largest airport in Europe thanks to the construction of the largest NATO base for military aircrafts.
A lot of money and work that has to benefit just the Novara province and some nearby, where were in crisis the car and textile industries, the former communist trade unions and an expensive welfare system. Not surprisingly, Luisa Maria Crespi, the mayor of Cameri, said “thanks to the initiative of the Province, from today we will be able to respond to our citizens’, as confirmed by the mayor Bellinzago, Mariella Bovio,’there are important employment guarantees for an area like ours who lives a severe crisis’.
The first doubts on plane and investments became apparent in 2009, when the average per aircraft costs were sketched to 62 and then over the 100 million dollars.
As reported by Stato-Oggi, “Defence Secretary Ignazio La Russa, at the Farnborough Air Show, referring to the program , added: “We are very cautious, we are checking.”
Utmost caution, if at the beginning of 2011, the Washington Post announced the need to recapitalize by 20% ($ 10 billion) and experimental design, half of which became necessary to lighten the plane, because flying at full load affects the key performance of the aircraft.
Or when (Jan 08, 2011 – remember this) Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates announced a series of efficiencies decisions designed to save the Department of Defense more than $150 billion over the next five years primarily by reducing overhead costs, improving business practices and culling excess or troubled programs, like the short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) variant of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter placed on the equivalent of a two-year probation because of significant testing problems.
So the contracts for F35 were gradually withdrawn by partners and Italy – where they were tobe built – missed a big deal: 85 F-35A for the Dutch Koninklijke Luchtmacht,some dozens for Danish Flyvevåbnet and Norwegian Kongelige Norske Luftforsvaret, then the good-bye to 116 F-35A for the Türk Hava Kuvvetleri and 150 F35B for the British Royal Air Force which preferred modify ‘her’ aircraft carriers and buy catapult-launched F-35C .
Meanwhile, the Berlusconi government did not give the consent for sixty F35 – provided over the first tranche of 22 F-35B for the Italian Naval Aviation, already ordered – and cut off an order of 2 billions euros for 25 Eurofighter (Aeritalia / Finmeccanica).
Soon after, for other trends, the spread of Italian bonds dramatically rose, the blame was charged to the government and soon after Mario Monti placed on Italian national budget dozens and dozens billions euros of expenses for 2012 and next years to to commission 131 jets to Novara F-35 industries (Dec 06, 2011 – remember this), while Italian debt exploded, a large part of welfare was cut or delayed and taxes went nearby 50%.
Not minus of half million of senior workers were dismissed after 30 or more years of regular work without any annuity or social help, disability rights went to enjoyment only after the insurance had recognized them and not when they were initiated, a lot of graduates at work in the call centers for $ 800 a month, a Nation in recession losing 10-15% of GDP, millions of young families unemployed, companies in the knee, failed or fled abroad. Suicides, people self burnings for protest, millions in line for food and help by charity centers.
These were the numbers for 2012 in Italy.
Just two months after (Feb 02, 2012) the Defense Secretary – Admiral Di Paola – wisely announced the cut of the F-35, reduced from 131 to 90 jets, and April 6 the government led by Mario Monti decreed the reform of Defence confirmed that the cutting of the F35 Joint Strike Fighter, with a reduction in expenses of 5 billions euro for 2014.
Of course, this economy was not destined to unlock pensions or protect the disabled and restart the occupation, was not destined to poor families, were not reduced taxes and businesses continued to close, military expenses were reduced for 33 mld.
Recession went nastier, but Italy began proudly a program to become the second-third largest industrial power for stealth attack fighter – as it relates to the NATO – and one of the first five countries in the world for the ability to “first air strike “… while Italian Constitution ‘rejects war as an instrument of aggression’.
So, Mario Monti continued in 2012 to spend the few public money available for the production of first strike stealth fighters, in USA the test on the jets gone really bad.
Lately, in February 2013, the Pentagon’s chief testing office based at the U.S. military’s Eglin Air Force Base in Florida reported that radars that don’t work, blurry vision from the aircraft’s sophisticated helmet, inability to fly through clouds during the tests done from September to November 2012 .
The National Post cleared that “the testing was extremely basic and “did not cover . . . in essence, everything that makes the F-35A a modern, advanced fighter,” reads the report, obtained by the Washington-based watchdog group Project on Government Oversight. Aircraft operating limitations prohibit flying the aircraft at night or in instrument meteorological conditions. The aircraft is also currently prohibited from flying close formation, aerobatics and stalls. The report also notes that the F-35A, which is the version the Harper government had intended to buy, “does not yet have the capability to train in . . . any actual combat capability, because it is still early in system development.”
Does anyone believe that the Italian government and Italian developers were not fully informed – in real time – during 2012 of a long series of negative tests?
If in October 1, 2013 Defense One announced a “recent report from the Pentagon’s internal watchdog reveals that the next gen fighter jet is plagued with hundreds of issues. The Defense Department’s Inspector General conducted a series of quality assurance assessments that found the Joint Program Office and Defense Contract Management Agency performed “inadequate oversight,” failing to adhere to widely adopted quality management protocols while losing control of contractors that have already sunk an estimated $400 billion taxpayer dollars into what is the most expensive weapons system ever developed by the U.S. government”, why Mario Monti’s government took no account of this in drawing up the law of the National Account law and Spending Review for the 2013 and 2014, easing taxes and allocating resources for senior workers and employment for young people or for help to families?
As known, the last days news announced a jet that caught fire during takeoff and lost pieces from the base of Eglin, Fla. and the Pentagon has grounded all F-35, definitively confirming the many doubts and cautions on the program, and we can imagine the panic in Novara and in Piemonte.
And – speaking of Italy, for the F-35 – there is also another thing to know.
In Spring 2012, Italy planned to buy up to 90 F-35, about 60 of the A model -take off from the ground – and 30 of the B model – vertical takeoff – for the aircraft carrier Cavour because, since the WWII ArmisticeTreaty, is not allowed to haveaircraft carriers with catapult systems. In fact, the C model – catapult takeoff – will made just in USA.
The question is ‘WHY’ was the Mario Monti’s government spending mountains as blocking valuable resources for 30 vertical take-off F-35B, while this variant, until last year, was not there, prototypes were not working, as Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates placed in probation for two years the troubled project of a short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) variant of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter because of significant testing problems, Great Britain changes ‘her’ takeoff systems on carriers.
The first successful take off test was conducted only on May 10, 2013 to NAS Patuxent River, Maryland.
So, the Mario Monti’s government has spent billions of Euro, catched with unsustainable taxes, while cutting the present and the future of so many people for a weak jet (F35A) that currently does not exist and another (F35B) that practically there never was. A case that is more reminiscent of the financial accounts of the Soviet Union than any lobbystic or helpful welfare approach to a financial crisis.
I do not believe such a misdeed or a ‘cospiration’, as it means in Italy. Just personal stubbornness and another one collateral damage by a “democratic former communist” trade union and his heavy lobby in leftist parties, not forgetting that colonization-like Italian unification acted by a financially burned Piemonte and Vatican, between 1860-1918.
I just hope that – after a so big flop – just anyone will start to not consider Mario Monti a reliable reference for Italian state of art, leading a long memory of Italian F35 story and of the many mistakes made in the management of a not only financial crisis of the former sixt GDP of the world actually impoverished to ten-twelwest position by stalling and recessive government action in 2012.
Mistakes like to fund for billions an inexistent jet in Piemonte – stronghold of former communist trade unions – while those billions were essential to not block the turn over and cut the welfare state for an entire nation during a hard crisis and leave to industry/commerce those really precious resources needed to avoid the recession that still plagues Italy, brought down the GDP and – consequently – afflicts the Eurozone and the European inner relationships.
And, please, … wish anyone note the failure of the Klein-Monti model when applied in a real system?
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