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Italian navy, air force officials visit F-35 training wing

by Ashley M. Wright
96th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

4/26/2010 - EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. (AFNS) -- Representatives from the Italian air force and navy visited the 33rd Fighter Wing here April 20 in an effort to check the progress of the first F-35 Lightning II integrated training center and learn more about this new coalition venture.

"Things are moving, and this program is becoming real," said Rear Admiral Paolo Treu, the Italian director of naval aviation department and commander of the Italian fleet air arm. "I'm grateful to Eglin (Air Force Base) for giving us this opportunity. A lot of work has been done. A lot of work has to be done."

Italy's military is one of several partner nations that will be training joint strike fighter pilots and maintainers at the 33rd FW.

"We are honored to host representatives from the Italian navy and air force," said Col. David Hlatky, the 33rd FW commander. "We are all on the same JSF team, and it's our privilege to share how the integrated training center is progressing. A lot of good things are coming together in the 33d Fighter Wing and the JSF program."

Admiral Treu said the timing of the visit serves two main purposes.

"(The visit) was a good opportunity to see a lot of the requirements for the joint strike fighter," he said. "The other reason is that we will be a part of the integrated training center."

The Italian military will send two F-35s to the center in 2014 and the country will receive its first 5th generation fighter in 2015, he said. The F-35 program is important to the Italian navy efforts to "maintain the capability of power projection from the sea to the ground."

"For the Italian navy, it is a crucial program because there is no replacement for the Harrier," Admiral Treu said. "In order to be useful in the international contest, you need to have the JSF. If you have the carrier, but you don't have the JSF, you could not be able, in the future, to be part of the initial strikes on enemy territory."

Admiral Treu and Brig. Gen. Roberto Nordio, the Italian air force logistic department chief, both expressed the importance of training with international partners.

"This melting pot of different cultures is very important because everybody has a different way of looking at business," Admiral Treu said. "It (puts) together the best practices of all the different countries in a synergistic way to increase our potential."

The training relationship between the United States and Italy stands on a solid foundation, General Nordio said.

"Starting from 1979, we (have) regularly sent pilots to Air Force facilities," the general said. "Our relationship is quite strong, and we really believe it is quite effective. The F-35 is a revolution in (the) air combat environment, (and) it will make our services more interoperable with other nations, especially the United States."

Italian air force officials plan to train some 180 pilots and about 1,800 maintainers from now through 2026, he said. Officials wish to send the first pilots and maintainers in 2013.

During their visit, the group received a 33rd FW mission brief and a tour of the construction site where students will study and train on the F-35.

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