The 32nd Wing of the Italian Air Force reached 5,000 flight hours with the F-35A on August 12, the Italian Air Force announced.The 5,000 flight hours milestone is testimony to the experience achieved in operations with the F-35: since 2018 the aircraft was integrated in the Italian airspace surveillance service NATO Quick Reaction Alert – QRA; in the same year it reached the Initial Operational Capability; it took part in the latest NATO Air Policing operations in Iceland and in the many international exercises, such as the Red Flag 20-2 and the Blue Flag 2019.
The Italian Air Force’s note stresses out that the aircraft’s high detection, identification and engagement accuracy capabilities, combined with the innovative net-centric capabilities, provide pilots with unprecedented situational awareness and make the weapon system a valuable asset that fits perfectly into the modern operational context.
“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 in fifth generation”, commented the Commander of the 32nd Wing, Col. Stefano Castelnuovo.
To date, Italian industry has secured $1.81 billion in F-35 production contracts. The value of these contracts is expected to exceed $9.9 billion over the life of the program. In addition, Engine manufacturing has resulted in $45 million dollars in contracts to Italian companies, with a total program value expected to exceed $4 billion. Lockheed Martin and its partners have awarded more than 100 contracts to dozens of Italian companies.
On September 7, 2015, AL-1, the first-ever Italian-produced F-35, took the first international flight in F-35 program history. In February 2016, AL-1 made the program’s first transatlantic crossing. In December 2016, the Italian Air Force’s first F-35s arrived at the first in-country base, Amendola Air Base. In October 2017, the first Italian-produced F-35B model took to the skies and was delivered to the Italian Navy in January 2018.
As the F-35 transitions into full-rate production, opportunities for Italian industry will evolve and endure throughout the life cycle of the F-35 program. Italian industry has won more than $1.35 billion dollars in F-35 production contracts as of December 2016. Italian companies produce components for the entire F-35 enterprise which is expected to grow to more than 3,000 aircraft.