F-35 Lightning aircraft from 617 Squadron ‘The Dambusters’ are in Italy to conduct bilateral training with their Aeronautica Militare counterparts.
Two F-35 aircraft will operate from the Italian airbase in Amendola, having arrived after the successful conclusion of Exercise Lightning Dawn in Cyprus; the four other aircraft from the Cyprus deployment landed safely back at RAF Marham yesterday.
Amendola is home to 32 Stormo of the Italian Air Force, which also operates the F-35.
Describing their arrival, 32 Stormo commander Colonel Davide Marzinotto said in a press release received this morning from the MoD:
“I am delighted to welcome 617 Squadron of the RAF to Amendola. This is an excellent opportunity for us to train together as partners and as NATO allies.”
Italy and the UK were the first European operators of the F-35 to declare Initial Operating Capability, with the Italian Air Force having reached this milestone in November 2018.
Having been proven in operational sorties over Syria, 617 Squadron will use this training to further develop the Squadron’s ability to operate effectively at range from the UK and from an allied airbase.
Officer Commanding 617 Squadron, Wing Commander John Butcher said:
“It has been an absolute privilege to operate alongside the Italian Air Force, a key NATO ally and European friend who also operate Lightning. The mission we flew together today was very successful and proves again the interoperability between nations flying F-35.”
The next step in the development of the F-35, say the MoD, will be the standing-up of 207 Squadron at RAF Marham later this summer.
207 Squadron will be the Operational Conversion Unit for RAF and RN pilots.