Italian Lightnings in Japan

Italy and Japan are collaborating on the Global Combat Air Programme (GCAP) with the aim of developing a new sixth-generation fighter by 2035. To strengthen defense ties, Italy has dispatched four Lockheed Martin F-35As for a joint training exercise in Japan. The F-35s were accompanied by 3 Italian KC-767A (reg. MM62227/8/9) tanker-transport aircraft, a Gulfstream E-550 CAEW (reg. MM62303) early warning jet, and two Lockheed C-130J (reg. MM62181, …) aircraft in a sea search-and-rescue configuration.

Japan is participating in the exercise with some F-15s, including one painted with a livery that celebrates the 100 years of the Italian Air Force, along with KC-767As.

The exercise follows a meeting held in March between the defense ministers of Japan, Italy, and the U.K., during which they confirmed their partnership on GCAP, an evolution of the U.K.-led Tempest program.

This training initiative represents the latest step in the air force collaboration between Rome and Tokyo. Japanese pilots have been training at Italy’s flight training school, now based in Decimomannu on the Italian island of Sardinia, since 2021. Both countries have opened final assembly and checkout lines for the F-35s they are ordering. In November 2022, Japanese KC-767 pilots and technicians visited Italy to meet their Italian air force counterparts and discuss tanker operations.

Speaking at the GCAP meeting in Japan in March, Italian defense minister Guido Crosetto emphasized, “Once, the Indo-Pacific area and the Mediterranean were considered far from each other. Today, however, the world has got smaller, crises are growing, and the situation will probably worsen this decade.” He added, “The future of the Mediterranean will depend on what happens in the Indo-Pacific area and vice versa. That is why our nations must work together.”

(photos via ItAF and JASDF)

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