Two Italian Joint Strike Fighters were given special tail markings to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the 13° Gruppo.
On Saturday Jun. 24, 2017, the Italian Air Force celebrated the 100th anniversary of five of its most famous combat squadrons: the IX Gruppo (9th Squadron, using the Roman numerals), belonging to the 4° Stormo (Wing), based at Grosseto; the X and XII Gruppo (10th and 12th Squadron), both belonging to the 36° Stormo, Gioia del Colle; the XIII Gruppo (13th Squadron), with the 32° Stormo from Amendola; and the XVIII Gruppo (18th Squadron), belonging to the 37° Stormo, based at Trapani.
During a event, held at Grosseto and gathering personnel from all the centenary units, each of the five squadrons unveiled aircraft in special color scheme. Therefore, whilst the IX, X, XII and XVIII, flying the Eurofighter Typhoon, unveiled their special colored F-2000A jets (that we will cover in an upcoming post), the XIII, Italy’s first JSF unit, displayed an F-35A aircraft with special tail markings (on the left hand tail only).
Although not the standard tail markings, the still rather simple celebratory markings include the Italian flag along with a large 13° Gruppo’s emblem, Don Quixote, with the addition of a “100” number and the dates 1917-2017.
Actually, the tail markings have been applied to two aircraft, the MM7336/32-05 and the MM7357/32-07, that flew to Grosseto alongside the MM7337/32-13 on Friday Jun. 23, at the end of the Italian Air Force’s first three-ship F-35 mission.
As already reported, on Dec. 12, 2016, Italy received its first two F-35A Lightning II, becoming the very first country to take delivery of the 5th generation stealth jet outside of the U.S. in what was just one of the several “firsts” scored by the Italian Air Force with the JSF: on Dec. 3, 2015, the Italian Air Force welcomed the first F-35A assembled and delivered outside the U.S. at the Final Assembly and Check Out (FACO) facility at Cameri, in northwestern Italy.
Then, on Feb. 5, 2016 in the hands of an ItAF test pilot, an Italian F-35 successfully completed the type’s very first transatlantic crossing landing at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland. More recently, the first F-35B assembled internationally has rolled out of Cameri FACO.
Considered that the previous JSF in special color tails or high visibility markings were either B or C models (and mostly prototypes), those unveiled by the 13° Gruppo on Jun. 24 are, to our knowledge (and if we missed any previous “special” Lightning CTOL variant let us know) the very first operative F-35As in special tail markings. Another Italian first with the 5th generation aircraft.