F-35A Lightning II first trans-Atlantic Ocean crossing

LAJES FIELD, Azores, Portugal -- An Italian Air Force F-35A Lightning II refueled here during the fighter jet's historic first trans-Atlantic crossing from Cameri Air Base, Italy to Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md., Feb 3-5.

One of the most advanced fighter planes in the world, the Italian F-35A named AL-1 landed at NAS Patuxent River, Md. seven hours after departing here.

The event marks two firsts for the program, AL-1 is not only the first F-35A to cross the Atlantic Ocean, but it is also the first F-35A built overseas, at the Cameri Final Assembly and Check-Out facility.

The coordination involved to make this historic flight a success was truly a multinational effort.

"We worked side by side with the Italians and Portuguese to accomplish this allied mission," said Maj. Lindsey Bauer, 65th Operations Support Squadron operations officer. "We are incredibly proud of the 65th OSS combined operations with the Portuguese Air Force in receiving and launching the first ever trans-Atlantic F-35A."

After the successful completion of AL-1's first trans-Atlantic flight, Lajes Field looks forward to preparing for future U.S. Air Force F-35 operations.

"The Lockheed Martin team accompanying the Italian F-35A provided invaluable training opportunities for our transient alert maintainers," said Bauer. "This training preparation is vital to the success of our Airmen to receive the first trans-Atlantic F-35A flown by a U.S. Air Force pilot planned for later this year, also scheduled to transit here."

Currently, the U.S. Air Force plans to send a pair of F-35As to the Royal International Air Tattoo and the Farnborough Air Show outside London this summer, joining two U.S. Marine Corps F-35Bs likewise scheduled to make appearances at the shows.

As for the Italian aircraft, AL-1 will now spend three months at NAS Patuxent River undergoing Electromagnetic Environmental Effects testing, which will evaluate the effects electrostatic events such as high-powered radars, communications systems, and lightning have on the aircraft.

The Italian F-35 pilot commented after arrival, "It was a very well-planned and successful mission. The airplane responded well and has been proven reliable over the long-distance over water flight. I'm extremely honored to be part of this team, along with my F-35 program teammates who contributed to our success."

AL-1 will join the F-35 international pilot training fleet at Luke AFB, Arizona after testing at NAS Patuxent River. This is the first of five F-35s Italy has committed to the international training fleet there. The next group of Italian pilots will start training at Luke in March with U.S. and other foreign students in the multinational training program.