The first F-35A destined for the 6° Stormo of the Italian Air Force made its maiden flight

The first F-35A for 6° Stormo during its maiden flight on April 7, 2022. (Image credit: Alessandro Maggia)

The Lockheed Martin F-35A “6-01” is the first stealth aircraft intended for the second squadron of the Italian Air Force which will operate the Lightning II: the 6° Stormo (Wing).

The F-35A MM7366/6-01 (AL-16), the very first to display the markings of 6º Stormo, the second Wing of the Aeronautica Militare (Italian Air Force), intended to receive the stealth aircraft Lightning II, made its first flight from the Final Assembly and Control (FACO) facility in Cameri, northwest Italy, on the afternoon of April 7, 2022.

The Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II will gradually replace the Tornado IDS fleet which this year celebrates 40 years of service in the Italian Air Force. Although the plan has not yet been formalized, according to rumors, initially, the F-35s of the “Diavoli Rossi” (red devils) of 6° Stormo, will operate from the air base of Amendola, in the southeastern Europe, home of 32° Stormo and its child unit, 13° Gruppo, the first Italian squadron to operate the Lightning II (both the F-35A and the F-35B variant), the first F-35 unit in Europe to reach IOC (Initial Operational Capability) in 2018, the first to deploy the jet under NATO command.

Another image of MM7366/6-01 on its maiden flight (Image credit: Oscar Bernardi)

Later, the F-35s will operate from Ghedi Air Base, located near Brescia in northern Italy, home of 6° Stormo, and its three squadrons: 102º Gruppo [that is the Tornado OCU (Operational Conversion Unit)] and the 154º Gruppo, equipped with the Tornado IDS, and the 155º Gruppo equipped with the Tornado ECR.

On the historic maiden flight, MM7366/6-01, with the distinctive Stormo Red Devil emblem on its tail, was escorted by a single-seat Eurofighter Typhoon emblazoned with 36° Stormo markings.

This F-2000A flew in pursuit of the F-35A. (Image credit: Oscar Bernardi)

A Tornado ECR from 155° Gruppo of 6° Stormo, another squadron intended to receive the F-35A in the future to carry out the SEAD (Suppression of Enemy Air Defences)/DEAD (Destruction of Enemy Air Defences) mission also carried a low pass at Cameri.

The Tornado ECR approaching Cameri on April 7, 2022. (Image credit: Oscar Bernardi)

We recently participated in a mission aboard a Tornado ECR from 155° Gruppo which also involved two F-35A from 32° Stormo and a Tornado IDS from 154° Gruppo: we will publish a detailed report on the current and future situation soon the abilities of the Italian “Wild Weasels”.

David Cenciotti is a freelance journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the founder and editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the most famous and widely read military aviation blogs in the world. Since 1996, he has written for major global magazines including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft and many others, covering aviation, defense, warfare, industry, intelligence, crime and cyber warfare. He has reported from the United States, Europe, Australia and Syria, and has flown several combat aircraft with different air forces. He is a former Second Lieutenant in the Italian Air Force, private pilot and computer engineering graduate. He has written five books and contributed to many more.

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