Italy's decision to join the Joint Strike Fighter programme earlier this month will provide Alenia Aeronautica with significant business over the next decade.

Carmelo Cosentino, Alenia Aeronautica senior vice-president, says that Alenia will assemble the JSF wingbox as a second source - Lockheed Martin is the primary source. Aircraft destined for the Italian armed forces may also be assembled locally, he adds. Italy will contribute up to 120 personnel to the Lockheed MartinF-35development team.

Italy, which is contributing $1 billion as a Level 2 participant in the systems development and demonstration phase, could acquire 100-120 JSFs, says Cosentino. Of these, 30-40 would be the short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) variant to replace the navy's Boeing AV-8B Harriers, while the remainder will replace air force Alenia/Aermacchi/Embraer AMXs and some Panavia Tornados. US sources suggest Italy is also considering the STOVL aircraft for the air force.

Alenia is also a Eurofighter consortium member, but there is "no conflict between Eurofighter and the JSF as they will have different roles", says Cosentino.

The probable industrial benefits will be proportionate to the level of membership in the project. "There are no free lunches," says Cosentino. "Level 2 is not Level 1, so you cannot expect to have the same level of industrial participation. We're the second source, which will limit the final production rate."

Cosentino discloses that Alenia was offered "several alternative packages", but rejected them in favour of the wings. Although he declines to identify the alternatives, industry sources say they included sole-source production of the fins and rudders.

About 20 Italian companies are expected to be involved in JSF work and about 10 on the engine, although the numbers could rise. The main Italian contractors will be Alenia Aeronautica and FiatAvio, which has reached agreements with engine suppliers General Electric and Pratt & Whitney.

Other Italian companies involved include Galileo Avionica  and Elettronica.

Source: Flight International