Here Is Italy’s First F-35B Lightning II Flying In Full Italian Navy Markings For The First Time Today

The F-35B MM7451 during its test flight in full Marina Militare markings (Credit: Franco Gualdoni).

The aircraft will be officially delivered to the Marina Militare next week. Today it flew for the first time in full Italian Navy markings.

On Jan. 18, the first Italian F-35B, the first short-take and vertical landing Lightning II aircraft assembled outside the US, designated BL-1, carried out a test flight in STOVL mode at Cameri airfield, home of the Final Assembly and Check Out (FACO) facility, in northwestern Italy, sporting full Italian Navy markings for the very first time.

Aviation photographer and friend Franco Gualdoni was there and took the photographs of the F-35B flying in the early afternoon sun.

The aircraft, serialled MM7451/4-01, will be taken on charge by the Marina Militare with a ceremony scheduled at the FACO on Jan. 25, 2018. After delivery, the aircraft will be transferred to the Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland, to obtain the Electromagnetic Environmental Effects certification, before moving (most probably) to MCAS Beaufort, South Carolina home of U.S. Marine Corps F-35B pilot training.

The aircraft, that had successfully completed its maiden flight on Oct. 24, 2017, sports a livery quite similar to the one of the Italian Navy’s AV-8B+ Harrier II of the Gruppo Aerei Imbarcati: it features the wolf’s head insignia on the tail, the wolf’s paw prints on the rudder, the Italian Navy roundel and the MARINA text.

Italy plans to procure 90 F-35s: 60 F-35As for the Air Force and 30 F-35Bs for both the ItAF and Italian Navy. The Navy’s STOVL aircraft will replace the ageing Harrier jump jets at Grottaglie airbase, in southeastern Italy, and aboard the Cavour aircraft carrier.

The F-35B MM7451 during its test flight in full Marina Militare markings (Credit: Franco Gualdoni)


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. Viewing this merely as a plastic modeler, I have to say it’s an ugly plane. Not something I would build for my display case. If it is a good instrument of death in war against a capable foe remains to be seen. It sure is good enough for use against random 3rd world countries.

    These are waiting in my shelf to be build. But I need some more photo etched parts and a new airbrush set before going to work. :-)

        • His account was created on August 13, 2017 and he made 2061 posts since then. His new account was created 2 days ago and he already has “written” 46 posts since then.

    • The FW-190. The Dora-9 derivative. Tank’s TA-152. Pfft! In a dogfight, the P-51D would cream it! Many actually did. Listen to Bud Andersen, triple-ace in WW-II. He knows more than some plastic model builder named “Holztransitor” who obviously has inhaled too much clear cement-glue. lol!!

      Q – Which aircraft, the ME109 or the FW190 was the most formidable in combat?

      “In aerial combat it did not matter to me which type of enemy fighter I encountered. I felt that the Mustang could outperform both the ME109 and the FW190 and treated them pretty much the same. The FW190 had an air cooled radial engine and could probably take a little more damage than the liquid cooled ME109. I never encountered any of the twin engine fighters such as the ME110 & ME 410 but it appeared to me that the guy that got there first shot down the most of them.”

      • 1) A knife-armed combatant could easily kill a gun-armed combatant unable to correctly use his weapon. Never heard of skilled pilots shortage among the nazis?
        2) The F-35 still has to prove its combat capability in real world. Of course, it still has to prove its reliability and full technical capabilities.

        • Reliability is very high . No accidents. Pilots love it. Jet engine is extremely powerful.

          • Very reliable? Is it this the main reason for the multiple grounding the F-35 fleet recorded?
            Never seen the head of the F-35 pilots at take off launch? Maybe there are pilots who love to have their head shaking up to the canopy!
            No accidents? Are you sure?
            Powerful engine: many Soviet jets had very powerful engines. So what? They all were excellent aircraft?

      • You just are proving my point that you can’t refrain from personally attacking a poster instead of merely focusing on the matter at hand. I don’t expect you to agree with me, but what you’re doing again and again is the lowest level of a possible response. I wonder if you treat people in real life the same way and how often you “got smacked in the face as hard as you deserve it”. Most of your posts can’t be taken seriously because of your own behavior.

        Eric Brown, a British test pilot who flew almost every German plane has a good opinion about the Fw 190. The A-Series had the main flaw that it was lacking performance at 7,000+ meters. And that was the altitude where the bombers and Mustangs were flying. The Fw 190s also were supposed to kill bombers, often carrying additional 20 mm or 30 mm cannons under their wings which did cost performance. So it’s not a surprise that Bud Andersen is talking the way he does about the Fw 190 if he’s referring to the A-models. Still, the plane is much more appealing as a scale model than a P-51 or F-35. The D-Series had much better performance up to 10,000 meters and it would be interesting to know what Bud Andersen was thinking about that variant or if he ever encountered it in combat.

        He was involved when one very rare variant of the Dora was restored to “better than new” condition:
        (I own that book from Jerry Crandall)

        What Eric Brown experienced:

        In the last months of the war, the Luftwaffe was having huge problems. Not enough pilots and fuel. The synthetic fuel had bad quality, so engines did not reach their full potential. Little training for new pilots. As a result, fresh pilots who got into brand new Fw 190s didn’t know how to use it’s capabilities and were quickly shot down by the Americans.

        Chuck Yeager told himself that he only saw German fighters on 5 of his missions when the invasion of France started. When the front advanced, they faced what was left of the Reichsverteidigung (homeland defense). Young German pilots had an average survivability of 3 missions at the end of the war. It was more a slaughter than a fight. Of course that is the kind of information that leroy happily is omitting when talking about the achievements of his favored side.

        What impact fuel quality can have was experienced when Americans test flew the Japanese Ki-84 after the war.

        • You complain about my insults but you fling them at me all the time (as do others here). So your crocodile tears don’t fly. Be a man when you are rightly criticized. You are a plastic modeler. That’s one step below being a gamer and commenting on fighter aircraft. Give me a break!

          P-51D with Merlin could out-dive an FW-190 because that big radial slowed the -190 down as compared to the sleek P-51. The P-51D could out-turn the bulky FW at high and low altitudes. They were comparable in top speeds, but P-51D had the edge thanks to FW-190’s higher drag (radial). P-51D with drop-tanks had over twice the -190’s range. By just about any measure the P-51D was superior to the FW-190. They had similar rates of climb, the only performance measurement between the two that were equal.

          So you don’t know what you’re talking about. Just because you have a “fave” plane to make models of doesn’t make that plastic toy superior in real life.Talk to me after you’ve flown some basic fighter maneuvers!

          Oh – I’ve been Knighted. I am now “Sir leroy”. Show some class and congratulate me. : )

          • I’m not complaining about your insults. I just stated what you are doing and how I see it.

            You again only mention the Fw 190A. The D was in many ways more than a match for the Mustang. The Ta-152H even more. It was just too little, too late. But your accusation that I’m favoring the Nazis is dead wrong. I’m glad they did not prevail and also that Patton did not get his wish to fight with Germany against the Soviet Union.

            You “Knighted” yourself and made a new (fake) account, too (again)? Do we need more proof for your delusional mind and hubris? If anything, you are Captain Bias to me.

        • “Of course that is the kind of information that leroy happily is omitting
          when talking about the achievements of his favored side.”

          Favored side? How could it be anything but??? Certainly no one in their right mind would support the sick, genocidal Nazis. Oh, I forgot – most
          Germans did. That is, until they started losing! For you, there is no
          redemption and won’t be for, well, let’s see … no redemption for the
          next thousand years! BTW – you killed my Uncle. But before you got him,
          he took a number of you down with his .50 cal mounted on a Jeep. Of that
          I am very proud! I’d have done the same thing.

          • What I wanted to point out is that you are indeed only mentioning what was good in America (or is in your opinion) but never any of the darker or negative sides (there are more than enough). You are obviously not able to make a neutral and weighted assessment of anything.

            Your uncle was killed in a war that your financial and industrial elites helped to get on the way to make profit. It’s a pity, but nothing I would be proud of. But I bet you haven’t read a single article that I linked and that described how America was also responsible for the development before the war in regard to Hitler and his raise to power and shaping Germany into an economical superpower. You don’t realize that all the values that you hold dear are mostly just phrases. It also was that way in Germany. The people were deceived and indoctrinated to support the Nazis and the war.

            Your problem is, that instead of investigating the truth or motives, you are quick to react and want action against whoever your government has declared as opponent or foe.

            “Of course the people don’t want war. But after all, it’s the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it’s always a simple matter to drag the people along whether it’s a democracy, a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism, and exposing the country to greater danger.”
            — Herman Goering at the Nuremberg trials

            • Thats totally true… unfortunatly
              3 years after the war started, its germania that declared war on USA not the opposite, maybe US wouldn’t even have engaged otherwise who knows ? The ennemy for us was stalline.

              • It’s not exactly about the declaration of war. It’s about how American companies (among others) were involved. Until 1938 Germany bought huge quantities of aviation fuel from Standard Oil (“Esso”) and stockpiled it. I.G. Farben had a contract with Standard Oil to produce tetraethyl lead – against the will of the U.S. government. Especially foreign oil companies (Standard Oil, AIOC (Anglo-Iranian Oil Company), Royal Dutch Shell) were controlling large parts of the fuel market in Germany. Ford produced almost 1/3 of all trucks for the Wehrmacht. Ford also made profit through forced labor. The concentration camp Buchenwald had a special command Köln-Ford (Cologne-Ford). At least by 1936 the industry in Germany (and foreign companies) knew what was coming because Hitler demanded that facilities had to be ready for war production in 4 years. Almost exactly 4 years later the war started with the false flag “Gleiwitz” and the invasion of Poland.

                Also interesting: The Allied bombers could have brought down the fuel production in Germany much earlier. But it wasn’t until May 1944 that they concentrated on major hydrogenation plants and refineries. One month before D-Day. It’s speculated that they didn’t do it to make sure the Wehrmacht was able to slow down Stalin’s Red Army for a little longer and that this agreement was made in Casablanca in 1943. So in that regard you are right. They indeed feared Stalin.

    • I respectfully disagree. I think it’s a fantastic looking plane. I want to try the 1:48 scale kit by Kitty Hawk however I do not have enough time to model these days.
      That Henschel HS 129 looks like a fun kit. I would love to build that plane one day (in Romanian markings of course).

    • Yes it is absolutely weird looking in some ways.In others it looks really cool.
      Personally i think the middle fuselage looks fat and straight while the underside rear looks amazing.
      No doubt we’ll partly get used to it in time.

    • I have to say in photos the F35 has always looked like a dog to me as well. Then I went to see some at a couple of airshows, DUDE they don’t even look like they are from this planet in the flesh! Sitting next to the old blue angles hornets they might as have been x-wings. Go see them IRL. I’ll be shocked if you still feel the same way.

  2. Looking forward to the Italian experience operating these off the decks of the Cavour. With Japan, S Korea, and US operating F-35’s off their small CV’s and the US’s LHDs it’s really going to change the face of air power at sea. What I’d really like to see would be someone making a makeshift CV as the British did with the Atlantic Conveyor back in the Falklands. Makeshift flattops with F-35’s would be a real force multiplier in a tight spot.

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