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The release of the Italian MoD’s Multi-year Planning Document 2021-2023 (Documento Programmatico Pluriennale or DPP 2020-2022) in August, anticipated by a dedicated directive on the national defence industrial policy by the Italian Minister of Defence Lorenzo Guerini, highlighted the highest funding support for the defence sector since the mid-2000s. The funding, worth €28.28Bn, combines the ordinary budget, participation to international missions, other Ministries’ funding and the ‘fund related to the multi-year investment programmes for defence missions. In the following two years, the overall budget is set to decrease respectively to €27.5Bn and then to €24.26Bn.

As highlighted by the Italian Minister of Defence, the DPP 2021-2023 includes the launch of 85 new procurement/modernisation programmes and the updating of the 115 on-going programmes. Among them, seven have been declared as strategic. These include:

  • the sixth generation TEMPEST ‘system of systems’ programme
  • the Defence cloud concept
  • a new amphibious vehicle
  • enhancement of air and anti-ballistic defence (BMD)
  • new radars for air defence missile systems
  • new air defence destroyers
  • participation in the Armoured Infantry Combat System (AICS)

All are considered as being open for potential international cooperation, high-tech value and national industrial involvement and return. These will be covered by the multi-year funding plan for national defence indicated in the Parliament bill authorisation for 2021.

Air Programmes

Following the trilateral agreement (UK, Italy and Sweden) on the launching of the development activities for the 6th generation TEMPEST combat aircraft system programme signed last December, the DPP 2021-2023 includes the first tranche of funding to participate in the research and development (R&D) phase. The Italian MoD put aside €2Bn in funding for these activities, which are expected to require a total of €6Bn for the Italian side. This allocation of funding for the TEMPEST programme R&D phase comes within the DPP 2021-2023 with more resources for the EUROFIGHTER programme and the “technological evolution” toward the 6th generation platform. During the DSEI 2021 exhibition, Leonardo announced the participation of Italian industry to the development of the new European Common Radar System Mark 2 (ECRS Mk2) radar for the same platform launched by the UK, following a ‘Statement of Principles’ document signature by the two Ministries of Defence.

The new DPP also confirms the plans for the procurement of 90 platforms within the F-35 JSF multi-year acquisition programme. In addition to the ‘Phase 1’ regarding the acquisition of the first 28 aircraft between A and B versions for both the Italian Air Force and Navy, (engines, retrofit, support until 2022, Cameri assembly and support line establishment, air bases and CAVOUR aircraft adaption for an overall €7.05Bn), the DPP acknowledges a Phase 2A for the procurement and enhanced support for 27 platforms for an overall value of €4.2Bn and a Phase 2B for which preliminary contractual activities are planned to be concluded in 2022 for the procurement of the third tranche of platforms (35 aircraft) and support, valued at €7Bn. The programme was compressed to reduce costs (saving about €1Bn according to the DPP) and for the quicker achievement of the full operational capability by 2030. The new phases funding is subject to adjustments connected to the periodic international procurement activities by the F-35 JPO.

The other main airborne programmes announced by the latest DPP regarding the European MALE (Medium Altitude Long Endurance) RPAS development, procurement and support programme, the upgrading of the MQ-9 fleet and the replacement of the MQ-1 fleet. The Italian MoD put aside €1,9Bn of the ordinary budget for the European MALE programme, waiting involvement next year of the Ministry of Economic Development funding. In the meantime, the in-service MQ-9 fleet will be upgraded and for the first time, the Italian MoD acknowledges the programme for weaponising these platforms for an overall funding amount of €168M of which €59M has already been allocated. The programmes for the procurement of new GULFSTREAM G550 platforms to be equipped with CAEW, Electronic Combat and SIGINT mission suites, continues in the meantime.

The Italian Air Force will also see the completion of development and procurement programmes for the EW mission suite dedicated to the C-27J JEDI platform, together with the funding of the C2 and weaponised mission module to equip the first C-27J PRAETORIAN dedicated to Special Forces operations. The transport segment will also see the procurement of two additional KC-767 transport/tanker aircraft in addition to the upgrading of the in-service four platforms for an overall value of €1.4Bn and the launch of the C-130 Mid-Life Upgrade programme.

Among the joint armed forces programmes, the DPP acknowledges the soon-to-be launched programme for the ballistic missile defence capability acquisition. It includes the procurement of four long-range surveillance radars and six batteries with dedicated effectors, C2 and multifunction radars for an overall value of €408M. This in addition to the announcement and funding of five new batteries for the Italian Air Force of the SAMP/T NG air defence missile system, being developed by Eurosam for the Italian Army and the French Air Force with the participation of Thales and Leonardo.

Navy and Joint Programmes

With the DPP 2021-2023, the Italian Navy is registering the launch of multi-year programmes for both the procurement of new ships and the upgrading of in-service platforms. The Italian MoD has approved the development and procurement of two new generation air defence destroyers under the so-called DDX programme to replace the aging LUIGI DURANTE DE LA PENNE class vessels. In addition to air and ballistic missile defence systems with long-range radars and effectors, the new destroyers will also be equipped with anti-ship and deep land-attack weapon systems. The overall funding request is for €2.7Bn of which €1.49Bn will be allocated to preliminary studies and initial procurement. A feasibility study is expected to be assigned to Fincantieri by year-end.

The DPP also includes the allocation of first €170M for funding the DORIA class (HORIZON type) MLU, whose feasibility study is being conducted jointly by OCCAR on behalf of the Italian and French navies. The Italian MoD is also set to launch the procurement and in-service support programme for two additional VULCANO class logistic support ships for a total of €823M of which €232M is already allocated. In order to replace the current fleet of aging smaller patrolling platforms, the Italian Defence Ministry launched the procurement of eight new generation OPVs for an overall programme estimated value of €3.5Bn of which initial de-risking studies for €5M are allocated. The development and procurement is planned to be conducted under the European Patrol Corvette (EPC) programme, together with at least France and Spain.

New Projects

Among the new joint armed forces programmes, the Italian MoD has approved the development and procurement of a new J3MS naval intelligence/special purpose platform with an allocated €470M in funding. The DPP also includes the initial funding for the de-risking studies regarding the new generation mine counter-measures vessels equipped with dedicated unmanned vehicles (12 units of seagoing and coastal types) and new amphibious ships (LXD) to replace the SAN GIORGIO and SAN GIUSTO class platforms in the longer term. This is together with procurement funding for a new multirole platform for underwater EOD and materiel recovery from the seabed in support of Divers and Special Forces Command (COMSUBIN). In parallel, a contract for a new special forces/divers support and submarine rescue ship (SDO-SuRS) is expected to be assigned to the selected Mariotti shipyard in the second half of this year.

The Italian MoD has already launched a tender for the procurement of new tugs to be sided by smaller support vessels for harbours and sea-going operations, while a programme for fourteen platforms dedicated to coastal logistic and lighthouse support is due to be launched in 2023. This is in addition to a €46M programme for the procurement of RHIBs/Rigid Raiding Crafts to equip both the Italian Navy and Army’s amphibious forces. The Italian MoD has also approved the programmes for the mid-life update of EH-101 helicopters and studies regarding new naval unmanned platforms to operate from in-service and future platforms. The DPP acknowledges the launch of the mass-production programme for the VULCANO family of naval long-range guided munitions, while procurement is to be launched by 2022 for Leonardo’s DART guided munitions and Rheinmetall’s 130 mm combined RF/IR BULLFIGHTER decoys.

Land and Joint Programmes

The new DPP has finally launched the long-awaited programme for the development of a new family of vehicles under the Armoured Infantry Combat System (AICS), centred on a combat (Armoured Infantry Fighting Vehicle – AIFV) and different support platforms based on the same chassis. To be modular and capable of evolution and growth potential to cope with present and future operational scenarios, the AICS is expected to be developed within the cooperation activities already existing between Italian and European industries, although no further details were released. The Italian MoD put aside an initial amount of €2.14Bn, to be followed by other funding tranches. In the meantime, the development phase for the modernisation of the ARIETE main battle tank programme continues to extend their service life until a replacement will begin to be delivered from 2035 onwards. The Italian MoD also launched the joint Army-Navy programme for a family of platforms based on a new amphibious protected wheeled vehicle (VBA, Veicolo Blindato Anfibio) to be provided by national industry to equip the joint national projection force from the sea with an initial budget of €326M, while the overall programme is expected to require €1.3Bn in funding.

The Italian Army’s lightweight component will be enhanced with a programme to boost the expeditionary and power projection from the air. This will include the involvement of the Folgore paratroop brigade, as well as the continuation of the procurement for the LINCE 2 and medium multirole tactical vehicles in the command post version, in addition to new batches of the soldier individual combat and protection system (SIC, Sistema Individuale di Combattimento). A new short-range anti-tank and multi-purpose weapon system, alongside additional tranches of the SPIKE family of missiles is also included. A new longer range ammunition (ER, Extended Range) for the GMLRS (Ground Multiple Launch Rocket System) will be acquired together with a new 105 mm ultra-light and air-droppable towed howitzer (ULH), as well as the mass-production procurement for the Leonardo VULCANO long-range guided ammunitions together with upgrading activities to the PZH-2000 and the FH-70 artillery systems. In 2022, the Italian Army will also launch the procurement of new radar-based weapon location systems, while a multi-platform programme for unmanned aerial vehicles of different sizes fills a gap in the current inventory from 2021. The Carabinieri armed force has also launched a comprehensive programme for new tactical, protected and transport vehicle of different sizes and missions.

Other Programmes

Among the joint armed forces programmes, in addition to the procurement of new batches of the Leonardo AW169 Light Utility Helicopter for the Italian Army and Carabinieri, the Italian MoD also funded the launch of a new phase of studies from 2022 for the development of a new generation of multirole rotary-wing platforms. Known as Future Fast Rotorcraft initiative, it is aimed to develop a Next Generation Fast Helicopter, looking to synergies with international programmes. These multi-year funded activities are covered so far with €129M. The programme for development and procurement of the Leonardo AH-249 combat helicopter is continuing. In addition to the upgrading activities for the Very Short Range Air Defence capabilities based on the STINGER missiles, as well as the new GRIFO SHORAD system based on the MBDA CAMM ER missile, the DPP 2021-2023 highlights the expansion of the scope of the SAMP/T NG programme for the Italian MoD.

Last March, OCCAR awarded the contract to Eurosam for the upgrading of the Italian Army and French Air Force in-service batteries under the mentioned programme. In addition to the same activities and the ASTER missiles family service-life extension programme, the Italian MoD also highlighted the upgrading to a full operational standard of an additional sixth battery, which will be used for training purposes in support of the Italian Army and, in the future, the Italian Air Force. The overall funding request is worth €3.05Bn of which €2.37Bn is already allocated. A parallel procurement programme for the SAMP/T NG system radar provided by Leonardo is part of a wider project which also includes the acquisition of new generation radars for the Italian Navy to support the FSAF/PAMMS air defence missile systems which will also receive the ASTER 30 Block 1NT EC under development with the SAMP/T NG programme. The overall funding request is €800M of which €367.82M is already allocated.

Italy’s Joint Programmes

Thanks to the overall funding made available with the abovementioned ‘ordinary’ and ‘extra’-defence budget investments, the DPP Italian MoD’s 2021-2023 budget plan is supporting the joint, secure and interoperable cloud-based information environment for defence, the digitisation process of its information communication systems (ICT) and networks, as well as the protection of the overall defence infrastructure against cyber-attacks. The Italian MoD has also launched the programme for a network of defence innovation centres to work in synergy with the civilian research world, and is funding research and development programmes in the sector of emerging disruptive technologies. It is enhancing its multi datalink hardware and software network together with new-generation Identification Friend and Foe (NG IFF) equipment, with further funding mainly directed to unmanned vehicles counter-systems including direct energy weapons, medical developments related to COVID lessons and contribution to the European PESCO and EDIDP/EDF initiatives. A major push to the Italian MoD’s overall strategy in the space communications domain came from the contract awarded last June to Thales Alenia Space and Telespazio for the SICRAL 3 satellite system and ground segment, while further funding is being provided for the enhancement of equipment and support of the Joint Special Forces Command and Armed Forces units.