On November 30, the chief of the Aeronautica Militare Italiana (AMI, Italian air force) announced that the service had achieved initial operational capability (IOC) with the Lockheed Martin F-35A.
“Today is an important day for the Italian air force,” said Lieutenant General Alberto Rosso. “With the achievement of the IOC, we are the first in Europe to have a real operational capability with a fifth-generation aircraft.” Italian F-35s are now ready to join NATO and allied operations.
General Rosso made the announcement during the fourth iteration in 2018 of the Tactical Leadership Program, a course that brings together experienced crews and tactical aircraft from a variety of NATO air arms to conduct exercises that hone mission planning and leadership. TLP typically includes airborne early warning and ISR assets and this year involved E-3 AWACS aircraft from the NATO AEW Force and Italy’s own IAI/Gulfstream E-550A CAEW aircraft.
The inclusion of the F-35As represented the first time that a fifth-generation aircraft had participated in the event. “It’s an important day also for the TLP course,” commented General Rosso. “It represents the first concrete integration between fourth- and fifth-generation systems, and is an important opportunity to improve and develop, together with other nations, the essential skills that air power must be able to express at international level.”