Marham's F-35 Lightnings land in Italy
PUBLISHED: 10:28 04 July 2019 | UPDATED: 14:50 04 July 2019
Stealth fighters from RAF Marham have flown to Italy for a training mission.
F-35 Lightnings from the Dambusters 617 Squadron will be taking part in exercises with the Italian air force.
Two F-35 aircraft will operate from the Italian airbase in Amendola, in the south of the country, which is home to 32 Stormo of the Italian Aeronautica Militare.
Both have been taking part in training sorties from a base in Cyprus, along with four other F-35s which have now returned to Marham.
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Describing their arrival, 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."
Italy and the UK were the first European operators of the F-35 to declare combat readiness, with the Italian air force having reached this milestone in November 2018.
As well as 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, 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. Officer commanding 617 Squadron, Wing Cdr 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 next step in the development of the F-35 will be the standing-up of 207 Squadron at RAF Marham later this summer, which will be the operational conversion unit for RAF and Royal Navy pilots who will fly the aircraft.