The first overseas built F-35A Lightning II aircraft has crossed the transatlantic ocean for the first time, flying from Cameri Air Base in Italy to Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland, US.
Built at the Cameri final assembly and check-out (FACO) facility, the aircraft, Al-1 was piloted by the Italian Air Force F-35 pilot, who was trained at Like Air Force Base in Arizona.
The aircraft took 11 flight hours to reach its destination, and was refuelled seven times in between by an Italian Air Force KC-767aerial refuelling tanker.
In the two-phase journey, AL-1 departed Cameri on 4 February and reached Lajes Air Base, the Azores, Portugal, in the first phase. After an overnight halt, it continued its journey reaching Patuxent River on 5 February.
An Italian tanker and Typhoon escorted AL-1 in its first leg, while the KC-767 tanker and Typhoon were there with it in the second leg.
Italian F-35 pilot Major Gian Marco D said: "This was the greatest experience of my whole life.
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"The aircraft was safe all of the time and able to fulfill the mission.
"We never had an issue.
"It is really stable behind the KC-767.
"The efficiency and reliability of the aircraft has been 100%, we had no issues at all."
Cameri, near Milan, is the FACO facility for Lockheed Martin-built F-35 in Europe. It is owned by the Italian Ministry of Defence, and operated by Finmeccanica-Aeronautics in partnership with Lockheed Martin Aeronautics.
AL-1, which joined the Italian Air Force in December, will now undergo three months of Electromagnetic Environmental Effects (EEE) evaluation and certification at Naval Air System Command’s Integrated Battlespace Simulation and Test (IBST) facility.
Post certification, the F-35A will join the international pilot training fleet at Luke Air Force Base in May. Italy will send a total of five F-35s to the training fleet.
Two pilots have already undergone training at the base while the next batch will join the multi-national training programme in March.
Image: The AL-1. Photo: courtesy of Lockheed Martin Corporation.