In the past week, Italy received several brand new aircraft that will take its air force to new heights. On December 12, the 13° Gruppo (Squadron) of the 32° Stormo (Wing) of the Aeronautica Militare (Italian Air Force, ItAF) received its first two F-35A Lightning II at Amendola airbase, in southeastern Italy.
The first two aircraft F-35 Italians have landed at the 32 ° Stormo of Amendola (FG), an air wing recently reconstituted to accommodate the Joint Strike Fighter. The wing is also responsible for the operation of Italy’s Predator remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS) operated by the 28° Gruppo.
Since this event happened few hours before two F-35I were delivered to Israel, the Italians were the very first service to take delivery of the 5th generation stealth jet outside of the U.S.
Unlike the Dutch, Brits and Israelis that made the arrival of the F-35 in their country a major media event, the Italian Air Force has kept a ‘low profile’ about its achievements with the F-35 so far.
According to David Cenciotti, editor of the Aviationist, Italy has done some significant work on the Lightning II: on Dec. 3, 2015, the ItAF welcomed the first F-35 at the Final Assembly and Check Out (FACO) facility at Cameri, in northwestern Italy. That aircraft was also the first assembled and delivered outside the U.S. On Feb. 5, 2016, the first Italian Air Force F-35, successfully completed the type’s very first transatlantic crossing landing at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland. To prepare for the 7-hour transoceanic flight the Italian Air Force conducted tanker trials in the U.S. (in July 2015) with its KC-767A, that became the first tanker not operated by the U.S. Air Force to undergo refueling certification trials with an F-35 (photo below). Three Italian F-35s are currently deployed at Luke’s multinational F-35 pilot training center.
The F-35 program presents a multi-billion dollar opportunity for Italy. Over 100 Italian industries have secured $826 million in F-35 production contracts and are expected to exceed $9.9 billion over the life of the program. Besides, Engine manufacturing has resulted in $24 million dollars in contracts to Italian companies, with a total program value expected to exceed $4 billion.
One of the most important facilities is the Final Assembly and Check Out (FACO) center at Cameri – one of three such assembly plants producing the F-35. The main site is in Fort Worth Texas and the other, for Japan is in Nagota, Japan.
Marking another milestone for Italy and Israel, Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) today delivered the first of two modified G-550 Conformal Airborne Early Warning (CAEW) aircraft to Italy. The CAEW is an early warning and air control system developed by ELTA systems, an IAI subsidiary. The second aircraft included in the agreement is expected to be delivered to the Italian Air Force during 2017. The aircraft are equipped with advanced mission systems including radar, electronic intelligence, self-defense and advanced communications systems to NATO standards.
The Singapore Air Force operates four such aircraft and the Israel Air Force currently operates three more. The US Navy has also selected this platform for range control missions.
Italy has also ordered an OPSAT 3000 reconnaissance satellite from IAI, the satellite is scheduled for launch on an Arian Vega launcher next year.