Italy takes delivery of first Lightning II

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ROME — Italy took formal delivery Dec. 3 of its first joint strike fighter — the first F-35 Lightning II to be built outside the US.

The handover took place at Italy’s Cameri Air Base, where Italy’s joint strike fighters are being assembled, after the aircraft made its first flight at Cameri in September.

The Cameri final assembly and check-out line is owned by the Italian government and operated by Italy’s Alenia Aermacchi and Lockheed Martin.

The aircraft, AL-1, is expected to fly across the Atlantic in February to Luke Air Force Base in Arizona — marking the first trans-Atlantic F-35 flight — where Italian pilots will train in it under U.S. supervision. Enroute to the U.S., the plane will be refueled by an Italian 767 tanker.

The FACO line at Cameri is the only one of its kind outside the U.S. and will also serve as a maintenance hub for European based JSFs after being designated for the role by the Pentagon last year.

AL-1, the first of Italy’s currently planned 90 JSFs, came off the line in March and its engines were turned on for the first time in June.

Italian pilots are already training at Luke. Last month, two Italian pilots completed initial F-35 training there, making the first F-35 flights under the control of Italian pilots. The U.S. Air Force said one of the pilots flew an Australian F-35.