ROME, Feb. 9 (UPI) -- An Italian Air Force F-35 flew from Cameri Air Force Base, Italy to Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md., completing the program's first transatlantic flight.
The F-35, designated AL-1, was assisted by an Italian Air Force KC-767 aerial refueling tanker, which refueled the fighter jet seven times during the ocean crossing. The fighter was flown by Italian Air Force pilot Major Gian Marco D., who accumulated 50 flight hours with an F-35 during his training at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona.
"The efficiency and reliability of the aircraft has been 100 percent - we had no issues at all," Marco said. "this demonstrates the capability of the aircraft itself, of the program."
AL-1 is scheduled to join an international training fleet at Luke Air Force Base. The aircraft is the first of the five planned Italian-made F-35s to joining the training fleet, in addition to being the program's first jet to be fully built outside of the Untied States.
As one of the first nine partner countries in the Lockheed Martin-led F-35 program, Italy's defense industry has secured over $826 million in F-35 production contracts. The value of these contracts is expected to exceed over $9.9 billion over the life of the program.
The F-35 Lightning II was developed to replace the U.S. Armed Forces aging fleets of F-16, F/A-18, and A-10 aircraft.