The Italian Air Force has accepted the first F-35As into service achieving IOC on November 30th. The first 10 Italian Air Force F-35As with 3F software will initially operate alongside Italy’s Eurofighter Typhoon , Panavia Tornado and AMX fixed wing combat aircraft. The F-35A offers Italy a low observable precision strike capability for the first time expanding the Italian Air Forces capability’s in contested airspace. The F-35A will replace the Tornado IDS and AMX by 2025. In addition to the F-35A Italy has also planned to order 30 F-35Bs for the Italian Navy to operate from the aircraft carrier Guessepi Garibaldi.
The first operational F-35A squadron 13 Gruppo based in Amendola started conducting operational trials in October 2017 including Vega a major air defense operation involving E-3 Sentry’s and ground based radars. F-35As then participated in an air to ground exercise Operation Lighting in Germany where the F-35A achieved air to ground IOC. The F-35A and Typhoon will form the backbone of the Italian Air Force into the 2020s. Further exercises to integrate the platforms will likely continue.
Italy is currently involved in several NATO Operations where the F-35A could eventually take part in including Operation Inherent Resolve in Iraq and Syria, Operation Enduring Freedom over Afghanistan as well as operations in Libya against ISIL forces and other violent extremist. The F-35As would be ideal ISR and strike platforms in these environments being able to provide improved situational awareness to help assist other allied aircraft operating in the area. Italy is the first European Air arm to declare the F-35 operational.