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Italian industry hits out at JSF technology transfer

Military cautious on F-35 programme, but Alenia president expresses dissatisfaction

With negotiations on participation in production of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) entering a critical phase, Italy’s government has come under fire from its industry for taking too soft a position on US technology transfer restrictions.

JSF W445
© Lockheed Martin

 Italy is questioning the value of its investments in the JSF programme

Alenia Aeronautica president Giorgio Zappa has said, in a New York Times interview, that access to sensitive technology is a key issue in the negotiations, adding that his company is not satisfied with the answers so far received from the USA.

The final round of negotiations on the memorandum of understanding (MoU) for the JSF production, sustainment and follow-on development phase takes place this month in the USA. While Australia and the UK have threatened not to sign the MoU unless technology transfer issues are resolved, Italy has been more cautious.

“All the countries are playing hard ball in the negotiations,” says Tom Burbage, Lockheed Martin F-35 programme general manager, who adds that Italy’s request to host a second final-assembly and check-out facility for the JSF has been approved.

With a requirement for 130 conventional and short take-off and landing aircraft, Italy is potentially the second largest international customer after the UK. Rome has committed $1 billion to the JSF system development and demonstration phase, but Italian industry says only a third of the promised €320 million ($387 million) workshare has been received.

Even if the draft MoU is released as planned in June, each of the international partners must gain parliamentary approval to purchase the JSF before signing the agreement in December, and issues over technology transfer and industrial participation have fuelled political opposition in some of the countries, including Italy.


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