by Jet Fabara
412th Test Wing Public Affairs
9/10/2015 - EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Italy's
F-35 program achieved two recent milestones with the completion of the
first aerial refueling certification between an Italian air force
KC-767A tanker with an F-35A and the inaugural flight of an
"Italy is one of the partner nations on the F-35 program and since we
are getting ready to receive our first two F-35s from our Cameri [Italy]
Final Assembly and Check Out Facility, we needed to certify the Italian
tanker. This is a full certification with all the F-35s, so it doesn't
matter if the F-35s are Italian, USAF or Australian assets," said
Italian Air Force Maj. Fabio De Michele, 311th Flight Test Squadron
experimental test pilot.
The Italian test team arrived here in early July and the first test sortie was flown July 22.
"We require only three more test sorties to complete the program. If the
remaining flights are successfully completed as scheduled, the program
will complete this week," said Vince Caterina, 461st Flight Test
Squadron, F-35 experimental test pilot.
"Overall, we are pretty satisfied with the campaign since we are nearing
the end of full certification. We are really happy to be the first
international tanker to be certified with the F-35. This is truly a
historic milestone for the Italian air force," said De Michele.
With these specific tests, De Michele highlighted the Italian tanker's
incorporation of a new concept of refueling, called a remote vision
system, which involves boom operators looking through a helmet-mounted
"The HMD displays three-dimensional imagery through the use of two
stereoscopic cameras on the bottom of the KC-767A," De Michele said.
Throughout the duration of testing, De Michele noted the multiple
organizations that were involved in order to ensure the success of each
of the refueling certification trials.
"There were test boom operators [from the 418th Flight Test Squadron]
that were responsible for checking the compatibility between the two
aircraft involved. There were also flight test engineers who were
tracking data and making sure that nothing was going to go beyond the
limit of the receiver and the tanker," said De Michele. "Since we had
the aircraft fully instrumented, we could see all the data real-time and
capture what we needed to certify the aircraft."
The testing included additional organizations and teams of personnel.
"There were four primary organizations directly involved with the test
program: the Italian air force, the 461 FLTS/JSF ITF, the 418 FLTS, and
the Lockheed Martin Corp. The integrated test team developed and
executed the test plan to ensure aerial refueling certification
requirements would be met in a safe and effective manner," said
Christina Ryskey, 418 FLTS Aerial Refueling flight test engineer.
In addition to this, Ryskey said there were teams of flight test boom
operators, human systems integration engineers, fuel systems engineers,
flying qualities engineers, Boeing personnel, F-35 maintenance teams,
the F-35 Joint Program Office, the Air Force Life Cycle Management
Center at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, the 412th Test Wing
Range Squadron and the Navy Sea Test Range, that were all part of the
Of those organizations, the 418 FLTS was the designated lead test
organization, which prepared the test package to include the test plan
and safety plan, according to Sawn Sandland, 418 FLTS program manager.
"This is the first time we've done this sort of thing. This is No. 1 in a
long line of foreign tankers that will be tested at Edwards AFB to
support AR certification with multiple USAF receivers," said Sandland.
"Right after this Italian tanker test, we'll be testing the Australian
tanker. We have a whole other coalition tanker effort that's going to
certify additional receivers with the Italian, Australian and United
Arab Emirates tanker, which we plan to start within the next year."
Italy's first F-35A Lightning II, known as AL-1 and assembled at the
Cameri Final Assembly and Check Out (FACO) facility, flew for the first
time on Sept. 7 and marked the program's first ever F-35 flight outside
the United States.
When the first Italian-built F-35As are ready to be ferried to Luke AFB,
Arizona, next year for their student pilots to begin fight training,
their KC-767s are anticipated to refuel them on the cross Atlantic