Royal Air Force F-35 Lightning aircraft from 617 Squadron “The Dambusters” have arrived in Italy to conduct bilateral training with their Aeronautica Militare counterparts.
Two F-35 aircraft will operate from the Italian airbase in Amendola, having arrived after the successful conclusion of Exercise Lightning Dawn in Cyprus; the four other aircraft from the Cyprus deployment landed safely back at RAF Marham yesterday. Amendola is home to 32 Stormo of the Italian Air Force, which also operates the F-35.
“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,” said Colonel Davide Marzinotto, 32 Stormo commander.
Italy and the UK were the first European operators of the 5th generation F-35 to declare Initial Operating Capability, with the Italian Air Force having reached this milestone in November 2018.
Operating with the Aeronautica Militare reaffirms the close relationship the RAF has with the Italian Air Force. In addition to sharing the same aircraft in the F-35, the UK and Italy also fly the Eurofighter Typhoon, with both nations regularly committing the Typhoon to NATO Air Policing tasks in the Baltic, Iceland and in Romania.
Having been proven in operational sorties over Syria (Emphasis added—Ed.), 617 Squadron will use this training to further develop the Squadron’s ability to operate effectively at range from the UK and from an allied airbase.
“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,” said Wing Commander John Butcher, Officer Commanding 617 Squadron.
The next step in the development of the F-35 will be the standing-up of 207 Squadron at RAF Marham later this summer. 207 Squadron will be the Operational Conversion Unit for RAF and Royal Navy pilots.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: As far as is publicly known, two F-35s flew a single sortie over Syria and Iraq on June 16, during which no ordnance was dropped and no weapons were fired.
Furthermore, the two F-35s “flew alongside Typhoon aircraft” – a euphemism for saying they were escorted by Typhoons.
The MoD statement adds that “UK F-35s have flown a further 12 sorties since then,” implying but not stating that these further sorties were also over Syria or Iraq.
This makes the Royal Air Force’s claim that the F-35 has now “been proven in operational sorties over Syria” rather ludicrous, and in any case utterly meaningless from an operational standpoint.
Furthermore, it is interesting to note that the Italian Air Force’s account of what the RAF calls “bilateral training” was, in fact, a single mission flown on the morning of July 2.)