Italy has received its first F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), becoming the sixth nation to add the aircraft to its fleet.
Being built by Lockheed Martin, the F-35 has previously joined Australia, the Netherlands, Norway, the UK and the US.
The F-35 Lightning II is a fifth generation fighter powered with advanced stealth, fighter speed and agility, advanced mission systems, fully fused sensor information, network-enabled operations and advanced sustainment.
Italy’s fleet of 90 F-35As and Bs will replace the Panavia Tornado, AMX and AV-8B aircraft, and serve the country’s air force Aeronautica Militare and navy Marina Militare.
The first two pilots are undergoing training at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona.
Lockheed Martin F-35 Program general manager Lorraine Martin said: "The F-35 provides Italy’s aerospace industry with high technology work, ensuring the future health and competitiveness for their defence industry.
"To date, Italian industry has contracts worth more than $1bn, along with opportunities for additional work over the life of the programme."
Named AL-1, the first JSF delivered to Italy is also the first F-35 assembled at an international assembly and check out (FACO) facility in Cameri, Italy.
Owned by the Italian Ministry of Defence, FACO is operated by Alenia Aermacchi in partnership with Lockheed Martin.
The facility is engaged in F-35 aircraft and wing production, with a workforce of more than 750.
Selected as the F-35 Lightning II Heavy Airframe Maintenance, Repair, Overhaul and Upgrade facility for the European region, the FACO will build all the F-35A and F-35B aircraft for Italy, is programmed to build F-35As for the Royal Netherlands Air Force and has the capacity to assemble the aircraft for future European partners.
Alenia Aermacchi also produces wings for F-35 partner and US Foreign Military Sales nations, at the FACO in Cameri.
Under current industrial participation agreements, the company will produce at least 835 full wings, with a full rate of production of 66 wings a year.
F-35 Joint Program executive officer Lt. Gen. Chris Bogdan said: "The F-35 aircraft built here in Cameri will take flight on the wings of Italian craftsmanship, ingenuity, and skill and will help build the first global fleet of fifth generation fighters."
Image: Italy’s first F-35A, AL-1, at the Cameri facility. Lockheed Martin photo by Larry Bramblett.