Italy plans to slash half a billion dollars from defense in 2019

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ROME — Italy will cut €450 million (U.S. $512.3 million) from its planned defense spending in 2019 by suspending helicopter and missile purchases and canceling an office move by the defense ministry to help shore up social welfare and tax cuts, a defense source has told Defense News. Italy’s total outlay on defense in 2019 will be announced in parliament in the next few days, as Rome’s populist government seeks support by members of parliament for its state budget, which contains billions of euros for a new wage for the unemployed. To free up funds to cover spending, Rome has made its cut to the defense budget, just as most European states are increasing their military outlay. During 2019 all ongoing purchases of NH-90 helicopters for the Italian Army and Navy will be suspended, the source said. Italy is planning to buy 60 NH-90s for the Army and 56 for the Navy at a total cost of €4 billion, with the procurement due to wind up in 2024. Upgrades to Tornado aircraft will also be suspended, said the source, who added that the two measures would save €370 million. Italy’s purchase of the MBDA Camm-Er missile defense system will also be put off for a year, saving €30 million in 2019, the source added. Another €50 million — to reach the total of €450 million — will come from the cancellation of plans to move the headquarters of Italy’s armed forces out of their separate buildings in Rome’s city center to a unified HQ in the suburbs. The plan, dubbed ‘Italy’s Pentagon,’ was due to cost a total of €1.1 billion, the source said. The source added that F-35 purchases would be “slowed” in order to spread out payments. Italy is currently planning to buy 90 aircraft. Italian defense minister Elisabetta Trenta will discuss the plan with U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis when she visits the United States in November, the source said. The Italian coalition government which took office in June combines the anti-migrant League party with the anti-establishment Five Star party, which has long criticized spending on defense in Italy. A second defense source said that the defense ministry was about to publish its much delayed document breaking down the year’s defense spending by program, which is normally released in the spring. The source said the document would this year indicate military procurement programs considered “ethical” by the new government.

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