In an official note of 21 July, the Honorable Matteo Perego di Cremnago, member of the Defense Commission of the Chamber of Deputies, underlines the strategic importance for Italy of the air base of the Navy of Grottaglie (Puglia): I have just visited MARISTAER in Grottaglie, the Air Force airport of the Navy which currently hosts the aircraft boarded AV-8B HARRIER II Plus, SH-90, and the first F-35B, the STOVL version intended to replace the HARRIER on board the aircraft carrier CAVOUR.
This complex, which in a few tens of kilometers, encloses the Grottaglie airport, with various training areas and the port of Taranto (seat of the Second Naval Division), is a strategic asset of the Italian Defense, to be protected and enhanced, with the I hope that the work started at the airport will be completed.
The CAVOUR aircraft carrier, located synergistically with this strategic complex, represents the only naval platform, within the European Union, capable of embarking the fifth generation F-35B fighter, whose initial operational capacity (IOC) must be guaranteed. as soon as possible.
Perego's note underlies a significant inconsistency in the timing of the defense's acquisition of the new fighter, the result of the absence of a precise political direction.
We remind readers that of the 30 F-35B STOVLs (short take-off and vertical landing) coming soon from Italy, 15 specimens will go to the Air Force, without the Armed Force having any tactical need for this version (moreover the F-35B costs more than version A and has lower performance). On the other hand, the Navy urgently needs to make the other 15 specimens assigned to it operational as soon as possible. This is why the Grottaglie complex (with its training structure) is essential to integrate the new fighter with the CAVOUR naval platform and with the new LHD TRIESTE.
The (unfortunate) cut of 2012, on the number of F-35s to buy, has seriously damaged the Navy. All the owners who succeeded the Defense in recent years have endorsed the Air Force's incomprehensible plan to acquire version B as well, effectively decreasing the air capacity of the Italian fleet. Unless the national political project is to gradually dismantle (both in the units and crews) the Navy - and therefore the projection capabilities on the seas - reducing it to a sort of Coast Guard, with the only institutional task of transhiping migrants in the ports of the peninsula.