ROME — Italy has taken delivery of two F-35 jets at its Amendola Air Base — the first joint strike fighters built outside the US to become operational.
The jets were flown to Amendola in southern Italy on Dec. 12 from Italy's F-35 final assembly and maintenance line in Cameri in northern Italy, a defense source told Defense News.
The deliveries happened on the same day that Israel received its first F-35s, which were assembled in the US.
"The Italian jets also touched down at Amendola shortly before the Israeli jets arrived in Israel," the source said.
Italy has to date rolled out six F-35s at Cameri, with the first four flying to Luke Air Force Base in Arizona to take part in pilot training.
The February flight of the first Italian joint strike fighter to Luke, piloted by an Italian Air Force pilot, was the first time the type had crossed the Atlantic.
On Dec. 12, one of the jets making the hourlong flight to Amendola was flown by Wing Commander Andrea Argieri, while the other was flown by the squadron commander, who the source did not name.
The next jet to arrive in Amendola is expected in 2017, while Italian pilots now training at Luke are expected to arrive at Amendola once their training is completed.
The jets will join the 32nd Wing based in Amendola.
Italy is expected to order 90 F-35s including a mix of "A" versions and short-takeoff-and-vertical-landing versions for its Air Force and Navy. It committed to building a final assembly line in the hope it will turn into a profitable maintenance hub.
Tom Kington is the Italy correspondent for Defense News.