The British Royal Air Force (RAF) has deployed F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter aircraft to Italy to participate in bilateral training with the Italian Air Force (Aeronautica Militare).
Two RAF F-35s from 617 Squadron ‘The Dambusters’ are set to operate from the Italian airbase in Amendola.
These jets have completed a training period at RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus, known as Exercise Lightning Dawn. The four remaining aircraft from the Cyprus deployment returned to RAF Marham.
Amendola is the home base of the Italian Air Force’s 32 Stormo unit.
32 Stormo commander colonel Davide Marzinotto said: “I am delighted to welcome 617 Squadron of the RAF to Amendola. This is an excellent opportunity for us to train together as partners and as Nato allies.”
The F-35 bilateral training exercise is expected to strengthen the relationship between the RAF and the Italian Air Force.
The countries share some commonalities as both fly the F-35 and the Eurofighter Typhoon.
Italy and the UK regularly deploy their Typhoon jets to support Nato Air Policing tasks in the Baltic, Iceland and Romania.
Training with Italian Air Force aircraft will allow 617 Squadron to enhance its ability to operate effectively at range from the UK and from an allied airbase.
617 Squadron officer commanding wing commander John Butcher said: “It has been an absolute privilege to operate alongside the Italian Air Force, a key Nato ally and European friend who also operate Lightning.
“The mission we flew together today was very successful and proves again the interoperability between nations flying F-35.”
The RAF will stand up 207 Squadron at RAF Marham later this summer.
The squadron will serve as the Operational Conversion Unit for RAF and British Royal Navy pilots.
Last month, RAF F-35Bs performed their first operational missions over the skies of Syria and Iraq in support of Operation Shader.