Italy has authorized an investment of 2 billion euros ($ 2.35 billion) over the next 15 years in the UK-led Tempest program, which is developing a future combat air system for entry into service in the middle of the next decade.
The commitment is contained in Rome’s latest three-year defense spending plan, covering the period 2021-2023, which was approved by the Italian government on August 4.
This will see Italy invest € 20 million in Tempest over each of the next three years, € 90 million over the period 2024-2026, and then an additional € 1.85 billion over the nine years. following until 2035.
Justifying the spending, the spending plan notes that participation in Tempest alongside the UK and Sweden will give Italy “exclusive access to a project of exceptional ambition” which will have implications for both its military and defense industry.
To achieve the desired transformation, the support of other parts of the Italian state will be necessary, he says, in particular to create the conditions which will allow “a future generation of Tempest engineers” to flourish.
He stresses that the program will be “the champion of innovation” in multiple high-tech fields – including artificial intelligence, mechanics, propulsion, energy management, materials and sensors – and will promote collaboration between European industrial leaders.
In addition to maintaining Italy’s “dominance in air combat power”, participation in Tempest will also contribute to the “digital transition” of the country’s aerospace and defense sector.
Tempest sees the development of both a sixth-generation manned fighter and unmanned aerial combat vehicles – called “loyal wingers” – that will work together, as well as advanced weapons and sensors.
The UK project lead is Team Tempest, which includes BAE Systems, Rolls-Royce and the UK branches of Leonardo and MBDA. London recently committed £ 250million ($ 350million) to fund the project’s initial definition and design activities.
Italy’s Defense Ministry says its contribution to the program will now “maximize the benefits of national participation” from its earliest stages; “Late membership, on the other hand, could prevent reaching the optimal share of production and compensation, certainly requiring additional costs,” he adds.
Similar requirements are cited for Italy’s participation in the EuroDrone program alongside France, Germany and Spain. Such collaboration has “obvious value in order to strengthen the European identity and the integrated growth of its technological and industrial capacity”, specifies the ministry.
Rome plans to spend 1.8 billion euros by 2035, including 285 million euros over the three years from 2021.
Elsewhere, the spending plan allocates funds for the acquisition of three Praetorian Leonardo C-27J transports in support of special forces missions, a pair of Boeing KC-46A refuellers to complement the existing fleet of four KC-767s from the Italian Air Force, plus a converted Gulfstream G550 business jet for C4ISTAR missions. Additionally, work will continue to develop an electronic warfare version of Spartan, designated EC-27J.