Italian Air Force F-35s Achieve 10K Flight Hours, Carry Out First ‘Elephant Walk’

F-35 Elephant Walk
12 F-35A and 2 F-35B on the runway at Amendola AB. (All images, credit: Italian Air Force)

The Italian Air Force has just achieved 10K flight hours with the Lightning II aircraft.

The fleet of F-35A and B of the Italian Air Force has just surpassed 10,000 fleet hours. The service has reached the milestone little less than 6 years since the first aircraft landed at Amendola Air Base, in southeastern Italy, home of the 32° Stormo (Wing), the first unit to operate the 5th generation aircraft in Europe.

Since then Wing has received 12 F-35A and 2 F-35B, achieving the Initial Operational Capability in November 2018, deploying for the first time under NATO command to Iceland in 2019 (the first of three deployments to Keflavik in three years) or performing the first Expeditionary Proof of Concept exercise with the F-35B in 2020.

One F-35A and one F-35B celebrated the 10K FH with the Lightning at Amendola AB.

Throughout the years, while growing its experience with the new aircraft, the Air Force has become much more vocal about the progresses of the F-35: from an early “low profile” needed to deal with a domestic “ostracism” and widespread criticism, the situation has significantly changed, until the F-35 in Beast Mode eventually made to the front cover of the 2022 calendar of the Aeronautica Militare.

For instance, the 10K FH milestone provided an opportunity for the service to release some interesting photographs of its F-35s at work, including one showing an “Elephant Walk” on the runway at Amendola, featuring 12x F-35A CTOL (Conventional Take Off and Landing) and 2x F-35B STOVL (Short Take Off Vertical Landing) aircraft.

Elephant Walks are training events during which military aircraft (sometimes fully armed – at least with inert weapons – in numbers going from a handful of aircraft to more than 50…) taxi in close formation or in sequence right before a minimum interval takeoff and, depending on the purpose of the training event, then they either take off or taxi back to the apron. Quite rare until a few years ago, such “shows of force” are now quite popular all around the world as they provide a great opportunity for some nice photographs, even when they do not involve many aircraft.

The Italian Air Force has so far received 17 F-35A and 2 F-35B.The Italian Air Force have already received 17x F-35A (and 2x F-35B) aircraft, including the three that are based in the U.S. for training and two aircraft that have already received the markings of the second Wing that will operate the type, the 6° Stormo based at Ghedi. Four of these have recently taken part in Exercise Lightning Shield with the Israeli Air Force F-35Is of the 116th Lions of the South Squadron and the 140th Golden Eagle Squadron, at Nevatim AB, Israel.

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.