Italy ‘Orders’ More Eurofighters To Check Russia; To Modernize Its Military With New Jets, IFVs, Tanks

As a wave of military modernization necessitated by the Russian invasion of Ukraine sweeps all of Europe, Italy has placed an order for two dozen new fighter jets and signed a contract to develop new battle tanks and infantry fighting vehicles.

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Italy has reportedly approved the purchase of 24 Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jets, as noted by military watcher Giovanni Martinelli and Janes journalist Gareth Jennings. Both cited a screenshot of the Ministerial Decree of Approval of the Program (Government Act No. 176).

Although the Italian government has not provided specific details, the aircraft is speculated to be a Tranche 4 or 5 variant. A local Italian defense magazine claimed that the new batch of Eurofighter Typhoons would likely replace the archaic Tranche 1 Eurofighters that the Italian Air Force still operates. The service is also considering decommissioning its 36 Panavia Tornado Interdiction Strike (IDS) and 16 Tornado Electronic Combat Reconnaissance (ECR) aircraft.

In May this year, the Eurofighter Consortium partner BAE Systems confirmed the potential sale, which will further expand Italy’s Eurofighter inventory, which currently has 94 operational aircraft. At the time, Janes reported that the Italian government would approve the purchase in the third quarter of 2024.

David Hulme, Typhoon product strategy director and Eurofighter project director at BAE Systems, previously said, “Italy is now looking at more core aircraft. There will be a parliamentary process over the summer to look at a further buy.”

If the purchase is confirmed, Italy will become the third country to add additional Eurofighter Typhoons to its inventory after Germany and Spain made similar announcements. The purchase would likely bridge the gap until the next-generation aircraft developed under the Global Combat Air Program is inducted.

In September 2023, Spain launched the Halcon II follow-on buy of the Eurofighter Typhoon combat aircraft. This deal was in addition to the 20 ordered in 2022 as part of its previous Halcon project. There is speculation that the country could opt for another purchase under a Halcon III requirement.

More recently, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced the purchase of 20 Eurofighter Typhoons. “We will order 20 more Eurofighters before the end of this legislative session (scheduled for autumn 2025) — in addition to the 38 aircraft currently in the pipeline,” he said at last month’s Berlin Air Show.

Italy’s purchase of the Eurofighter would also confirm the economic impact study of the Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jets, released by the Eurofighter consortium in April. The study projected possible sales for the aircraft and presented a “growth scenario” of up to 287 new sales, some of which included aircraft that had been contracted but not delivered.

File Image: Italian Air Force Eurofighter Typhoon

The report predicted that hundreds more multirole combat aircraft could be sold to exporting and partner countries. According to Airbus, the Eurofighter is the most advanced swing-role fighter in existence. Nine countries—Germany, the UK, Italy, Spain, Austria, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Qatar—currently operate the Eurofighter.

The Eurofighter Typhoon is a multirole, supersonic, canard delta wing, twin-engine European multinational fighter produced by a team comprising Airbus, BAE Systems, and Leonardo. Along with the fifth-generation F-35 stealth fighter, it forms the backbone of the Italian Air Force and often participates in NATO missions.

In March this year, for instance, the Italian Air Force’s Eurofighter jets deployed at Poland’s Malbork air base were scrambled twice in 24 hours to intercept Russian aircraft over the Baltic Sea.

Besides strengthening its air fleet, Italy is also progressively moving to replace its aging land-based systems and adding more teeth to its firepower.

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Joint Venture For Key Land Systems

To facilitate the development of new Main Battle Tanks and Infantry Fighting Vehicles (IFV) for the Italian Army, Rheinmetall, a German company, and Leonardo, an Italian manufacturer, inked a Memorandum of Understanding today about land systems. The MoU would be a 50-50 partnership.

“The objective of the agreement is the industrial development and subsequent commercialization of the new Main Battle Tank (MBT) and the new Lynx Platform for the Armored Infantry Combat System (AICS),” planned for the service, Rheinmetall said in a statement.

Rheinmnetall Lynx
Rheinmetall Lynx

According to Rheinmetall, the future JV will have its headquarters in Italy and function as the “lead system integrator, prime contractor, and system integrator” for both Italian efforts, subject to approval by regulatory agencies such as the European Commission and the relevant national competition authorities. It will also define the “roadmap” for participation in the upcoming European Main Ground Combat System (MGCS).

Leonardo’s responsibility will be to develop and produce mission systems, electronics suites, and weapons integration for both Italian projects in accordance with Italian customers’ requests.

The decision comes a few weeks after Italy abruptly terminated its joint development of the Leopard 2A8 MBT with the Franco-German KNDS due to an inability to reach a mutually agreeable configuration.

With Leopards now out of the picture, reports suggest that Italy could consider developing an Italianized Panther KF51, which is more receptive to Italian input because it is still in its early stages of development.

Italy’s speedy formation of this partnership demonstrates a swift reaction to modernizing its ground forces in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.