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Israeli And Italian F-35s Train Together During Exercise Lightning Shield

Four Italian F-35s deployed to Nevatim Air Base for a week-long binational training event.

The Israel Defense Forces announced on Twitter on July 27, 2022, the beginning of a binational exercise with F-35s from Israel and Italy. The exercise, held at Nevatim Air Base, sees the participation of four F-35s of the 13° Gruppo (Squadron) of the Italian Air Force and an unspecified number of F-35Is of the 116th Lions of the South Squadron and the 140th Golden Eagle Squadron of the Israeli Air Force.

“The exercise is a significant milestone in further establishing cooperation between the armies while strengthening the unique relationship between the countries,” the IDF said in a statement, adding that “the exercise will contribute to improving the operational competence of the F-35i Adir array and expanding its capabilities to possible operational scenarios.”

The 122nd Nachshon Squadron, which flies the Gulfstream G-500 aircraft in the three variants Eitam (CAEW), Shavit (SIGINT) and the newer Oron, will also take part in the week-long exercise. The Italians are already familiar with these aircraft, as the Italian Air Force also operates the CAEW (Conformal Airborne Early Warning) variant of the Gulfstream.

This exercise follows the Falcon Strike 2021 exercise held in Italy last year, which saw Israeli F-35s deploying to Amendola Air Base, home of the 32° Stormo (Wing) and the 13° Gruppo, for their first-ever overseas deployment. The drills, in that occasion, saw the participation of F-35s from five different air arms: Italian Air Force F-35A and B; RAF F-35B, U.S. Air Force F-35A, U.S. Marine Corps F-35Bs and Israeli Air Force F-35I Adir.

Details about Lightning Shield are scarce, however, based on the previous exercises, it could be expected that the exercise is aimed at training in a wide variety of operational theaters, as the F-35 is often referred as an “omnirole” aircraft, against various advanced aerial and ground threats while strengthening the cooperation between F-35 operators and increase their interoperability.