F-35A Italian Air Force
Copyright: Sergio Marzorati

9th Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II delivered to Italian Air Force

On December 15, the 9th Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II has been delivered to Italian Air Force. The aircraft, numbered AL-9 (A means conventional model and L Italy) and operational tail code 32-09, has been taken in charge by the 32nd Fighter Wing at FACO Cameri (Final Assembly & Check-Out).

Another F-35A (tail code 32-07) landed at the airbase in the morning, accompanied the new stealth 5th generation jet to its operational base in Amendola, Foggia. The 2 F-35 jets left Cameri around 12:30.

Italian Air Force already commissioned 9 F-35, 4 of which are US based at Luke AFB at the International F-35 training school and 5 operational at Amendola AFB, Italy. Italy is on track to receive 60 F-35A within 2027 and next year 2 more F-35A are expected to be delivered LRIP 10 plan (Low Rate Initial Production).

The first STOVL model (BL-1) is expected to be delivered within the end of the year and as of today, the Minister of Defense has not officialized if it will be Italian Air Force or Italian Navy to receive the first F-35B Lightning II assembled outside US. The B-Model performed its maiden flight on October 24, 2017.

The Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II is a family of single-seat, single-engine, all-weather stealth multi-role fighters. The fifth-generation combat aircraft is designed to perform ground attack and air defense missions. It has three main models: the F-35A conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL) variant, the F-35B short take-off and vertical-landing (STOVL) variant, and the F-35C carrier-based Catapult Assisted Take-Off But Arrested Recovery (CATOBAR) variant.

On 31 July 2015, the United States Marines declared ready for deployment the first squadron of F-35B fighters after intensive testing. On 2 August 2016, the U.S. Air Force declared its first squadron of F-35A fighters combat-ready.

Outside US, Italy, Israel and Norway have its own jets country-based and UK will receive its first jets in the middle of 2018 and the F-35B is expected to participate at The Royal International Air Tattoo 2018 under the “100 years of RAF” celebrations.

In the meantime, talks (and polemics) continue to take place in Germany to choose the replacement for the elderly Panavia Tornado IDS and ECR. Today the german Tornado fleet is made of 93 combat aircraft even if less than half would be operational. The F-35 is on top of the Luftwaffe’s “wish list”, but the candidates on the table are also Eurofighter Typhoon T3, Boeing with an advanced version of F-15 Strike Eagle and F/A-18 Super Hornet.

Article: Gianluca Conversi
Photo credits: Sergio Marzorati