The Italian Air Force welcomes the first F-35A delivered outside the U.S.

The first F-35 delivered outside the U.S. was taken on charge by the Italian Air Force.

On Dec. 3, Lt. Gen. Pasquale Preziosa, Chief of the Italian Air Force, welcomed the first Italian F-35A at the F-35 Final Assembly and Check Out (FACO) facility at Cameri, in northwestern Italy.

Not only is the AL-1 (as the aircraft is designated) the first F-35 for the Italian armed forces but it is also the first assembled and delivered outside the U.S.

With the delivery of its first aircraft, Italy becomes the sixth nation to receive an F-35 joining Australia, Netherlands, Norway, United Kingdom and the U.S. that already operate the aircraft at various airbase across the United States.

The aircraft for the Italian Air Force, that made its very first flight from Cameri airbase on Sept. 7, it’s the first of eight aircraft currently being assembled at the Italian FACO that will assemble all the remaining F-35A and F-35B for the Italian Air Force and Navy, and build F-35A for the Royal Netherlands Air Force.

AL-1 will be delivered to Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, in 2016 (with the support of an Italian Air Force KC-767 tanker, the first international tanker to refuel the JSF) where Italy’s first two pilots have recently begun F-35 flight training..

Italy is a Tier II partner in the F-35 program. So far, the Government has invested 3.5 billion USD in the program with an industrial return, in terms of contracts signed, that amounts to +1 billion USD.
That said, industrial participation in the program includes Alenia Aeronautica supplying wing sets (about 75% of Italy’s participation in the program) and other companies of the Finmeccanica group supplying work on some of those quite critical systems, including the EOTS (Electro-Optical Targeting System).

Despite the cuts, the program has attracted a significant chunk of Italy’s defense budget: for this reason the F-35 surely the most famous defense program in Italy. And the most controversial. So much so that it has become a very “sensitive” subject.

A large part of the public opinion, as well as many Italian lawmakers are against it, because they believe that the about 13 billion Euro for the F-35 and no significant industrial gains can’t co-exist with the country’s fragile public finances. However, as a consequence of the cuts (from 131 to 90 examples, with the “promise” to consider more cuts if needed), the assignment of the European FACO to Cameri, and a significant investment already done (Rome remains the second largest contributing partner after the UK) the Italian Government has been able to save the F-35 and ensure the Italian Air Force its 5th generation aircraft to replace the ageing (and for this reason costly) AMX and Tornado fleets, and the Navy its F-35Bs to replace the AV-8B+ Harrier jump jets.

Image credit: Lockheed Martin’s Thinh Nguyen


About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.


  1. the F-35 despite its designation is no replacement for an air superiority fighter. We are replacing AMXs, AV-8Bs and Tornados with the F-35. The point is that to bomb Daesh you do NOT need such an expensive fighter. if it even worked, you would not need stealth. Any sort of air campaign would be unaffordable with the F-35. The need for cheap to operate plane is emerging now more than ever. Look at the Textron Scorpion. If you feared the Russian then the right answer would be to augment the defence network and buy/upgrade Typhoons. Try to intercept a Flanker with a F-35 and you will be just as successful as with a Ghibli.

    • Yeah, no.

      The F-35 is replacing the F-16, AV-8, A-10, etc.

      Are you saying the F-16 is NOT capable of ACM?


      “Look at the Textron Scorpion.”?

      Yeah, keep looking.

      So, if and when we have to go up against a near-peer adversary, what would those Scorpions be good for?

      You obviously don’t comprehend modern air warfare.

      It is NOT supposed to be a fair fight.
      You ALWAYS want to go to war better equipped and trained than your adversary.

      Try to intercept a Flanker with a Scorpion. Tell us how that works out.

      • What is your major malfunction? I never said anything about the F-16. I commented on the F-35 with emphasis on the A2G capabilities. You don’t intercept a Flanker with a Scorpion. You don’t even intercept it with an F-35 if that is your concern. Do you know what risk assessment is? How likely is a state-to-state war? Very unlikely. It still makes sense to keep defences up. That is why we have an army. If you want to intercept these Flankers then the Typhoon will do the job. Such a poor performing sophisticated attack aircraft is not needed especially when it is not ready yet and based on wrong assumptions.

  2. No, you’re wrong. That’s a fact.

    Go read up on what the Tier 1 and Tier 2 partners have developed and build.

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