ROME — The Italian Air Force is to get a second air base ready to host the F-35A by the end of this year as deliveries of the aircraft ramp up, according to officials.
Work is now underway at Ghedi air base in northern Italy to allow the basing of F-35As there and their inclusion in Ghedi’s 6th Air Force Wing, which currently flies Tornados.
Last week, the first F-35A to join the wing touched down at Ghedi for a ceremony involving Air Force top brass. Italy has so far taken delivery of 16 of the 60 F-35s it plans to acquire, with two currently involved in pilot training in the U.S. and the remaining 14 based with the Air Force’s 32nd Wing at Amendola.
The aircraft, which flew to Ghedi, returned to Amendola after the ceremony and will remain there while work continues at the 6th Wing. A second aircraft due to join the 6th Wing will be delivered in July, the Air Force has said.
”There is a large scale renewal underway at Ghedi to allow it to host the F-35,” an Air Force spokesman said. “According to plans, the base will be ready by year end — with an initial set-up — to host the new aircraft,” he added.
As newly delivered F-35As arrive at the 6th Wing, the Tornados at Ghedi will be gradually phased out by 2027.
The Air Force has not yet revealed how its F-35A fleet will be divided between Amendola and Ghedi.
Final assembly of Italy’s F-35s is being undertaken at the country’s own final assembly line at Cameri air base in northern Italy. Italy is also planning to buy 30 F-35Bs, equally divided between the Air Force and Navy, with three delivered so far to the Navy and one to the Air Force.
Tom Kington is the Italy correspondent for Defense News.