Italy to spend 7.5 billion euros on new Eurofighter jets, document shows

FILE PHOTO: International Aerospace Exhibition ILA at Schoenefeld Airport in Berlin

By Angelo Amante and Giulia Segreti

ROME (Reuters) - Italy is planning to spend just under 7.5 billion euros ($8.1 billion) over the next 11 years on 24 new Eurofighter jets, according to a document by the Ministry of Defence seen by Reuters on Monday.

The procurement will renew the fleet of Italy's air force given the necessary decommissioning of aging Eurofighter and Tornado jets at a time of increased defence spending by NATO alliance members caused by heightened geopolitical uncertainty.

The twin-engine, supersonic Eurofighter Typhoon jets are built by a German, British, Italian and Spanish consortium, represented by Airbus, BAE Systems and Leonardo.

Given the order will be made by the Italian air force, Leonardo will be assigned as prime contractor.

A spokesperson for the Italian state-controlled aerospace and defence group declined to comment on the document. In June, a senior company executive told Reuters the government would announce the plan shortly.

"The programme ... will have a multi-year development time frame of approximately 2024-2034 ... for a total amount of 7,477.3 million euros ," the defence document said.

It added funding was already in place for 690 million euros, while the remaining 6.8 billion would be financed through arrangements to be determined in the future.

The aircraft will replace 26 aircraft that Italy is planning to substitute from 2028 and the contract will provide technical support for the jets and staff training.

Relevant parliamentary committees are due to issue by mid-August an opinion on the purchase programme - submitted late last week by Italy's government - paving the way to a final approval.

Germany last month also announced it would buy 20 additional Eurofighters. Berlin's air force currently operates 138 of them.

"Emerging technologies available to competitors mean that air supremacy, a key element of aerospace control, cannot be taken for granted and in some situations may not even be achievable," the document said.

The order will allow Italy to transition between the Eurofighter and the new Global Combat Air Programme, to which Rome is contributing alongside Britain and Japan, for the development of a new advanced fighter jet, expected to fly by 2035.

($1 = 0.9227 euros)

(Reporting by Angelo Amante and Giulia Segreti; Editing by Tomasz Janowski)