Rome, July 16 – A majority of Italy's Senate approved the plans to buy F-35 jet fighters in a vote Tuesday but said future purchases should be approved by parliament. The controversial purchase passed by a vote of 202 in favour, 55 opposed and 15 abstentions. Having already passed the same vote in the Lower House, the purchase plans are now final.
Senators rejected a call to cancel the purchase of 90 Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter jets which, at an estimated $200 million per unit, are among the costliest fighter jets in the world. Italy has a duty to its allies and its citizens to invest in the best defence systems possible, said Defence Minister Mario Mauro, whose government will spend approximately 11.8 billion euros on the program over 45 years starting in 2015. He told the Senate that weapons were not good or evil by themselves. "There are, however, adequate or inadequate military instruments," he said. "It is quite evident that if Italy is to be able to play an important role in the new geo-strategic world...by honoring its international commitments, it must be the will of parliament to respond to the needs of modernizing our regular armed forces".
The purchase has been controversial and at times risked splitting the left-right coalition government. According to the defence ministry, the 90 aircraft will replace 256 obsolete fighters in the Italian air force. With radar-evading technology, it has been championed for its advanced design but also heavily criticized for allegedly not meeting the criteria of modern warfare, marked more by guerrilla insurgencies than airborne dogfights. Nine countries are involved in developing the F-35: Italy, Canada, the United States, Britain, Netherlands, Australia, Norway, Denmark and Turkey. Had Italy reduced its investment in the program it would have caused a ripple affect for each of its partner countries that develop different components of the fighter jet.