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Italian Military Chief Likely to Snub Boeing

The Italian chief of the defense staff, Gen. Vincenzo Camporini, is reportedly so angry with the Boeing Co.'s handling of the tanker contract with Italy that he is refusing to meet with Boeing officials during his visit to the Farnborough Air Show. Camporini is expected to arrive at the show outside of London on Tuesday.

The Italians took the risk of being the first country to sign a contract with Boeing for the modified 767 tankers, signing a contract for four KC-767 tankers four years ago for somewhere between $700 million and $861 million.

Camporini faces a challenging political climate, with the Italian premier, Silvio Berlusconi, viewed as a staunch American ally. In addition, the Italian company Finmeccanica is a major force in Boeing's tanker efforts. Two of its components, Alenia Aerospazio and Aeronavali, hold a program share of up to 20 percent. They take part in all phases of the program, including design, development, production and logistics. Aeronavali is the lead in Italy for the Italian tankers. It is also builds the modification kits for aircraft sold to other countries. On top of that, the troubled Italian airline, Alitalia, provides logistics support for the Italian tankers. In general, Finmeccanica has great political influence in Italy, primarily due to its large workforce.

Camporini has reportedly said he is at war with Finmeccanica because of what he views as general poor performance of the program -- the tankers are at least three years late -- and less than candid assessments provided to the Italian military. That leaves him with principles to follow and a difficult political calculus to balance.

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