The Italian Air Force (Aeronautica Militare Italiana: AMI) has become the first European operator to declare its Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) fit for service, with the announcement on 30 November of the type's initial operating capability (IOC).
The IOC announcement, which pertains to the conventional take-off and landing (CTOL) F-35A variant of the aircraft, comes two years after the first aircraft was delivered from the US to Amendola Air Force Base in December 2016, and three years after the first test, evaluation, and training F-35A was delivered to the AMI in December 2015.
The AMI has a programme- of record for 60 F-35As and 30 short take-off and landing (STOVL) F-35Bs (although 15 of the latter will be operated by the Italian Navy). With deliveries ongoing, the final aircraft is scheduled to be handed over in 2027.
The F-35A will replace the Panavia Tornado and Alenia-Embraer AMX in AMI service, while the F-35B variant will replace the Italian Navy's McDonnell-Douglas AV-8B Harrier II+.
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