Italy’s F-35 programme has passed a key test, with an Italian Air Force KC-767A tanker refuelling a Lockheed Martin F-35A for the first time.
The milestone comes as Italy prepares to flight test its first domestically-assembled F-35A, which rolled off the Cameri assembly line in March and will eventually be flown to the US to support pilot training at Luke AFB in Arizona.
The joint strike fighter top-up took place 29 July over Edwards AFB in California, with 25 boom contacts and 7,259kg (16,000lb) of fuel offloaded to the US Air Force F-35 (AF-4).
“Italy's KC-767A is the first international tanker not operated by the USAF to undergo refueling certification trials with a US aircraft,” the F-35 joint programme office said in a statement.
Italy operates four Boeing-built KC-767A based at Pratica di Mare Air Base, and intends to purchase 60 F-35As and 30 F-35Bs to replace the Tornado, AMX and AV-8 Harrier.
The refuelling flight comes as the Marine Corps declares its first operational F-35 squadron ready for combat.