Italy activates the "Golden power" on the Microtecnica-Safran dossier

(To Philip Del Monte)
21/11/23

Italy exercised the Golden power blocking the acquisition of the Turin-based electronics and aeronautical components company Microtecnica (currently part of Collins Aerospace, in turn controlled by Raytheon) by the French aerospace-defense company Safran. The Italian decree states that the sale of Microtecnica to the transalpine aeronautical giant would have represented an "exceptional threat to the essential interests of defense and national security".

The government of Rome has therefore stopped a 1,8 billion dollar operation that would have brought a strategic company into French hands, as it specializes in the design, qualification, production and after-sales support for flight control actuation systems primaries and secondaries, engine valves, thermal control systems and space equipment.

Microtecnica supplies, among other things, spare parts and services to the Anglo-Italian-German fourth generation fighter program Euro Fighter and one of the fears, expressed mainly from Berlin, was that the supply chain might slow down or be disrupted if Safran acquired Microtecnica. In the text of the activation decree of Golden power we also read that Safran it would not have guaranteed priority to industrial production lines of direct interest for Italian defence.

In the logic of "competitive globalization", where even powers allied on a political and military level, such as Italy and France, can easily be rivals, if not directly "enemies"from an economic point of view, all the "politics" of a special measure like the Golden power emerges. It is no coincidence, as Luca Picotti wrote, that the Council of State highlighted that, when making the decision on the application, the council of ministers never limited itself to a “atomistic, punctiform and, so to speak, 'accounting' and anodyne recognition of the specific characteristics of the operation”, but placed it in the broader context “of the general aims of national policy, weighing its impacts both on the economic-productive structure of the socio-economic sector concerned, and on the broader structure of the national economy, and, finally, on international relations and on the overall political-strategic positioning of the country in the 'international competition'.

The Microtecnica-Safran dossier is one of the games being played on the delicate political-industrial thread of the sixth generation multi-role fighter and "system of systems" programs GCAP extension (ITA-UK-JAP) e FCAS (FRA-GER). In fact, it cannot be ruled out that the full-blown rivalry between the two programs may have generated different strands, just like that of the "Saudi lead" linked to the sale of British Eurofighters to Riyadh.

Rome consulted Berlin before making the decision to activate the Golden power for Microtechnics. Germany is the leading shareholder, just like France, in the FCAS programme, but rumors remain insistent that it is now inclined to abandon the development of the fighter with the French to enter - with a significant amount of capital and know-how - In the Global Combat Air Program.

Of course, the decision to finance specific investigations and research projects for the Future Combat Air System recently taken by the German government clashes quite a bit with the idea of ​​practically suddenly abandoning the program, and if that were the case, then it would be a long-considered decision but which, at the same time, would cause a rift that would be difficult to heal in a short time in the special relationship with Paris both from an industrial-military perspective and from a purely political-diplomatic one.

The high level of attention with which the Germans wanted to highlight the risks associated with the efficiency and reliability of the supply chain Eurofighter, if a fundamental component of the industrial supply system had ended up in the hands of an allied country, it says a lot about how much Berlin - as well as Rome - can trust Paris, at least as regards theEuro Fighter, which is at the center of a real foreign "competition for orders" with the Gust transalpine.

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