The Italian Air Force (Aeronautica Militare) has announced that an F-35A and an F-35B aircraft flew in ‘beast mode’ for the first time.
The aircraft are assigned to 32° Stormo (Wing) while the 13° Gruppo (Squadron) operates the flights.
In a tweet, Aeronautica Militare said: “The Italian Air Force is the only armed force operating both the F-35A and F-35B.
“Today for the first time a training mission for two jets loaded with internal and external weapons, configuration known as ‘beast mode’.”
In this mode, the weapons are carried inside the internal bay and the wing-mounted pylons.
In May, Italian defence minister Lorenzo Guerini reaffirmed the country’s commitment to the F-35 programme in an interview with magazine Formiche.
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Italy is one of the two Level II partners on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Programme, contributing $1bn.
To deliver aircraft for Italy and the Netherlands, Lockheed Martin and Italian firm Alenia Aeronautica established an F-35 final assembly and checkout facility at Cameri Air Base, Italy.
In 2016, the Italian Air Force’s first F-35s arrived at the first in-country base and the F-35A’s Initial Operational Capability was declared in 2018.
As per the official US Government programme of record, Italy has plans to acquire a total of 90 F-35s.
The new F-35 fleet would replace Italy’s 253 Panavia Tornados, AMX Fighter Bombers, and AV8B Harriers.
Last month, the Italian Air Force officially took the delivery of the final Eurofighter Typhoon during a ceremony held at Leonardo’s plant in Caselle (Turin) in north-western Italy.