Tag Archives: KC-767

First Atlantic crossing for F-35

UPDATED 6 February | The first Italian-made F-35A Lightning II is all set to start the type’s first ever Transatlantic flight to the US on Tuesday 2 February, sources in Italy confirm. A Boeing KC-767 tanker aircraft and a two seater Eurofighter Typhoon accompany the brand new fighter aircraft on its way, which includes a stop over at Lajes airbase in the Azores.

Update | The flight was delayed on 2 February due to weather. The F-35 left Italy on Wednesday 3 February and arrived in Lajes, Portugal, later in the day. A picture of the aircraft in Lajes is here. The F-35 and accompanying aircraft finally arrived at Patuxent River in the US on Friday 5 February.

An F-35A in its natural element. (Image © Frank Crébas/ Bluelifeaviation.com)
Related reading: Dutch Lightning testers. (Image © Frank Crébas/ Bluelifeaviation.com)

Subject to weather, the aircraft leaves Cameri and joins up with the tanker aircraft and Typhoon for the flight. The F-35 was produced at Cameri by FNM Aeronautics under the watchful eye of Lockheed Martin, first flew on 7 September 2015 and was then delivered to the Italian Air Force on 3 December 2015. It was the very first F-35 to be produced outside the US.

Pilots

An Italian Air Force pilot from the test squadron at Pratica di Mare will fly the F-35 on its flight over Atlantic, the very first of this kind for the new generation stealth aircraft. In the backseat of the Typhoon will be another Italian F-35 pilot. The flight to Lajes is expected to take 4.5 hours. Air-to-air refueling with the KC-767 was validated last year in the US.

The F-35 performed trials with the KC-767 tanker last year in preparation for the Atlantic crossing. (Image © Lockheed Martin)
The F-35 performed trials with the KC-767 tanker last year in preparation for the Atlantic crossing. (Image © Lockheed Martin)

Tests and training

After the stop over in Lajes, another 6.5 hour flight takes the F-35 and two accompanying aircraft to Naval Air Station Patuxent River in the US. The F-35 will then remain there for six weeks for tests, before finally moving on to Luke Air Force Base. Here, the aircraft wil be used to train Italian pilots.

The second Italian made F-35 is now performing test flights at Cameri and will be among four more Italian aircraft to follow the same route later this year. By the end of 2016, the sixth aircraft produced in Cameri will be the first to remain in Italy. Cameri will also see production of Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) jets.

Italy formally has eight F-35s on order and is still debating the final number of aircraft to be ordered. That number is expected to be 90, after dropping from 131 earlier.

© 2016 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest
Featured image: The first Italian built F-35 seen during its first flight in September. (Image © Lockheed Martin)

EATC adds 31 Italian Air Force aircraft

European Air Transport Command (EATC) has added 31 Italian Air Force transport and tanker aircraft to its command, the Italian ministry of Defense announced this week. EATC is based in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, and now has 220 European tanker and transport aircraft at its disposal, equal to over 60 percent of all military air transport assets in Europe.

Joining the command of EATC are four Boeing KC-767 tankers, twenty Lockheed C-130Js and seven Alenia C-27J Spartans. Italy and Spain formally joined EATC already in 2014, but the former still had to transfer operational control over its tanker and transport fleet to EATC.

The Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, France, Spain and Italy are now part of EATC. Military transport and air-to-air refueling exercises are regularly held, such as this one in 2015.

© 2016 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest
Featured image: An Italian Air Force KC-767. (Image © Tomas Maruscak)

Italy takes delivery of first F-35

Italy took delivery of its first Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II on Thursday 3 December, three months after the aircraft became the first F-35 to be built and fly outside the US. The handover took place at Cameri airfield, home to the Final Assembly and Check Out (FACO) facility operated by aviation manufacturer Alenia Aermacchi.

Representatives from F-35 program partners such as the US, UK, Netherlands, Canada, Turkey, Australia and Norway witnessed the delivery ceremony at Cameri. The purposely built Alenia Aermacchi factory accommodates both an F-35 production line and maintenance, repair, overhaul and upgrade facilities.

Transatlantic

The first Italian F-35 will fly to the US this February for training purposes at Luke Air Force Base, where the first Italian pilots recently flew US-owned F-35s. A Italian Air Force KC-767 tanker will support the F-35 on the transatlantic journey, the first ever for the type. Refueling between the Lightning II and KC-767 was tested last July in the US.

The first F-35 Lightning II from the assembly line in Italy (Image © Larry Bramblett / Lockheed Martin)
The first F-35 Lightning II from the assembly line in Italy (Image © Larry Bramblett / Lockheed Martin)

Countries

Italy is now the sixth country to own the F-35, following the US, UK, the Netherlands, Australia and Norway. The latter recently received its first two aircraft and flew them to Luke for training purposes as well.

The Australian aircraft are at Luke as well, while the two Dutch F-35s are to be found at Edwards airbase for operational test and evalution (OT&E). The British Lightning IIs are at Edwards also for tests.

© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest
Featured image: The first Italian built F-35 seen during its first flight in September. (Image © Lockheed Martin)

‘Italian Tornados start bombing missions’

Italian Air Force Tornado bombers are to start actual bombing mission over Iraq soon, according to reports in Italy. The jets were already involved in the campaign against Islamic State but only in the recce and target designation role. The aircraft operate from Kuwait. Government sources in Rome however later on Tuesday said the bombing missions are ‘just an hypothesis’.

Tornado jets left Italy for Kuwait already in November 2014. They since flew many missions over Iraq in the recce role, but did not drop any bombs. This will change as early as this week, sources say. The Italian military work closely with other allies during sorties over Iraq. Mission over Syria are currently not considered.

An Italian Air Force Boeing KC-767 tanker aircraft also already took part in the campaign, along with Predator drones.

© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest
Featured image: An Italian Torndao fighter bomber. (Image © Dennis Spronk)

First non-US tanker refuels F-35

An Italian Air Force Boeing KC-767A aerial refueling tanker successfully completed its first F-35A boom receiver certification refueling flight last week over over California. The tanker was the first non-US tanker aircraft to refuel the 5th generation fighter jet, which is also on order from Italy.

During the fligh on 29 July, the KC-767A completed 25 boom contacts with the F-35A and successfully offloaded 16,000 pounds of fuel. Italy operates a fleet of four KC-767A tankers, a derivative of the Boeing 767 commercial aircraft, which are stationed at Pratica di Mare Air Base, near Rome.

Italy was also the country that saw the opening of the second F-35 production line in the world, delivering its first F-35 earlier this year. The first flight of that aircraft is expected this fall.

© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest