The 6° Stormo is the second Italian Air Force wing to operate the F-35A Lightning II aircraft.
On Jun. 16, 2022, the F-35A Lightning II MM7366/6-01 (AL-16) was delivered to the 6° Stormo (Wing), at Ghedi Air Base. Escorted by three Tornados, the first Lightning II sporting the markings of the “Diavoli Rossi” (Red Devils) carried out a few flybys with the Tonkas and a low passage before landing at the base located near Brescia, in northern Italy.
The new aircraft was welcomed by the commander of the 6th Wing, Col. Giacomo Lacaita, along with Gen. Alberto Biavati, Commander of the Squadra Aerea (Air Fleet Command) and former pilot of the Red Devils at the time of Desert Storm; Gen. Francesco Vestito, Commander of the I Regione Aerea (1st Air Region) and former 6th Wing commander, as well as civilian authorities.
Our contributor Luciano Zanini was also at Ghedi AB where he took all the images you can find in this article.
With the arrival of the first aircraft (to be followed, in about one month, by a second airframe, MM7367/6-02) the 6° Stormo has become the second Italian Air Force Wing to operate the F-35A; the other one is the 32° Stormo, based at Amendola AB, whose child-unit, the 13° Gruppo (Squadron) has been operating with the 5th generation aircraft since 2016 and achieved IOC (Initial Operational Capability) in 2018.
The official delivery to the 6° Stormo today was just symbolic though: initially, the first F-35s of the “Red Devils” will operate from Amendola, as part of a “pooled” fleet that will enable the aircrews to carry out the training activities on the type until the aircraft eventually relocate to Ghedi.
The Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II will gradually replace the Tornado fleet that this year celebrates 40 years of Italian Air Force service: the IDS variant will be retired first (by 2025 according to the rumors as no official plan has been announced yet), followed, at a later stage, by the Tornado ECR. Both the IDS and ECR operate at Ghedi with the 6° Stormo and its three squadrons: the 102º Gruppo [that is the Tornado OCU (Operational Conversion Unit)], the 154º Gruppo, equipped with the Tornado IDS, and 155º Gruppo equipped with the Tornado ECR.