Italian F-35As surpass 5,000 flight hours

The Italian Air Force announced that its Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II fleet – operated by the service’s 32nd Wing – had passed the 5,000 flight hour milestone on August 12.

This milestone comes four years after Italy formally accepted its first F-35A and just two years since the air force declared initial operational capability (IOC) on the type. Since 2018, Italian Lightnings have regularly conducted quick reaction alert (QRA) and airspace surveillance missions. The platform has also deployed to Keflavik to support NATO’s Icelandic Air Policing mission. Italian F-35As have also been present at international exercises, including Red Flag 20-2 in the US, and Blue Flag 2019 in Israel.

Italian F-35A [US Navy/Andy Wolfe] #1
An Italian Air Force F-35A Lightning II - serial AV-0001-H '32-01' (c/n RQ-1B) - made history on February 5, 2016, when it landed at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland, after conducting the type's first transatlantic crossing from Cameri, Italy. US Navy/Andy Wolfe

Col Stefano Castelnuovo, commander of the 32nd Wing, said: “Thanks to the teamwork and high skills of all the men and women of the Wing, it has been possible to achieve this result, which must be considered as a starting point towards more ambitious goals in the ongoing transformation of the armed forces.”

Italy is seeking to procure 60 conventional take-off and landing (CTOL)-configured F-35A Lightning IIs for the air force. The nation is also set to acquire 30 short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL)-capable F-35Bs, which will be split between the air arm and the navy.

According to AirForces Intelligence data, as of August 25, a total of 12 F-35As have been delivered to the Italian Air Force. The first F-35B emerged from the Cameri-based F-35 Final Assembly and Check Out facility in May 2017.