Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Italy's defence cuts - Not 131, but 90 F35; UPDATED

Today Admiral Gian Paolo di Paola, minister for defence, confirmed that the 190.000 uniformed and 30.000 civilian personnel in the armed forces are no longer sustainable, and will need to drop to 150.000 uniformed and 20.000 civilians. 22.000 less men in the Army, 7000 less in the Navy, 10.000 less in the Air force.  The top brass will be trimmed significantly in number across the force.

The F35 plan, as widely expected, has been revised and downsized: now Italy is to buy only 90 F35, down from 131. There are no details, but the cut of 41 is almost certainly going to mean the end of the plan for the Italian Air Force to buy around 40 F35B. The original italian order was, in fact, to include 69 F35A as Tornado IDS replacement, with 40 F35B as AMX replacement and CAS-dedicated platform, plus 22 F35B for the Navy for Harrier AV8B+ replacement.

Very probably, the plan is now to buy 68 F35A for the air force and 22 F35B for the Navy.
The Tranche 3B of Typhoon is long dead for Italy, but a reduction could hit the Typhoons already acquired and in service as well, with part of the Tranche 1 being retired, since the minister hints to a reduction in air defence units. Support for the Typhoon in Italy is at an all-times low. 

UPDATE: pessimism on the progress and ever growing cost of the F35B is apparently giving birth to a "party" of supporters for an order of 75 F35A and just 15 F35B for the Navy. 

The Italian army is also going to be cut, with the target of 11 Maneuver Brigades being abandoned, scaled down by 2 to 9 brigades, with cuts in heavy artillery and tanks and heavy armor. It is too early to guess what this will really mean.
Until now, the Army was planning for 2 Heavy Brigades, 1 of which Armoured ("Ariete" of El Alamein fame), and one mechanized ("Garibaldi"); 4 Medium Brigades on 8x8 vehicles ("Pinerolo", "Aosta", "Sassari", "Pozzuolo del Friuli") and 5 Light/Specialized ("Folgore", parachute; "Friuli" airmobile; "Taurinense" and "Julia" mountain infantry; "Granatieri di Sardegna" infantry).

My personal vision is that two of these brigades are particularly vulnerable: the "Pozzuolo del Friuli" and the "Granatieri di Sardegna". The first is the only Cavalry brigade in the Army, and is basically a "container" of units that normally end up attached to other brigades or commands. In particular the brigade contains the "Lagunari Serenissima" amphibious infantry regiment, which works alongside the Navy's own infantry regiment "San Marco" for obvious reasons; and three Reconnaissance Cavalry regiments on 40 Centauro B1 8x8 armored vehicles each. These regiments normally end up assigned to other brigades: in particular a Centauro RECCE regiment is to be part of each of the 3 Infantry Medium Brigades ("Pinerolo", "Aosta", "Sassari"), and two of said brigades ("Aosta" and "Sassari") do not have the formation in their force.
It is possible that two Centauro regiments from the Pozzuolo del Friuli will be re-assigned, one to each of the above mentioned brigades, and the brigade itself closed down.

UPDATE: there's been suggestions on some press that the Army cut could actually see two brigades being combined into a single one. The Airmobile "Friuli" and the PARA "Folgore" are specifically mentioned by newspaper "La Stampa". A fusion of said brigades would likely deliver a formation similar in concept to the British 16 Air Assault Brigade. 
In this picture would probably fit an hinted, but not detailed reduction in the force of the helicopters fleet.

The "Granatieri di Sardegna" brigade also looks vulnerable to me as it is not specialized in any particular role, and might be the easier cut, even though Di Paola outlines the hypothesis of heavy cuts concentrated on the heavier (tracked armor) formations.  
These could possibly involve, however, a restructuring, not closure, of "Ariete" and "Garibaldi". The Ariete is an old-style armoured brigade with 3 x Tank Regiments (Type 41, with 41 MBT each) and 1 x Mechanized Infantry, while "Garibaldi" has only 1 x Tank regiment and 2 x Mechanized Infantry regiments.
Ariete is likely to be changed significantly, in my view. However we will have better details in due time.

Navy vessel numbers will also be cut, with patrol vessels dropping from 18 to 10 and submarines dropping from six to four, which means that the second couple of U-212 being built will also be the last.
The reduction in "patrol vessels" is not detailed, and it is not possible at the moment to say what it will entail, but it appears that Italy will not order the second and last batch of FREMM frigates (4 to add to the 6 on order). This means that the FREMM program loses another piece, after France cut its own order from 17 to 11. The cut to just 6 high-class frigates will have a very bad impact on the navy and on national shipbuilding yards and industry.

It must be noted, however, that this is the Ministry of Defence's proposal and recommendation: it will be the Parliament, and ultimately the government, that will decide the definitive shape of the restructuring and of the cuts. 

1 comment:

  1. Salve Gabriele, mi chiamo Marco Giannangeli. Sono un giornalista inglese e scrivo su difesa per il giornale Sunday Express.
    Sarebbe possibile pararle con lei oggi o domani (in via ufficiosa)? Il mio email address e:
    Cordiali saluti, Marco


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