F-35 Carries Out First International Tanker Tests

A US Air Force F-35A completed the first successful air-to-air refueling operation from an international tanker recently, joining up and refueling from an Italian Air Force KC-767A flying over California for boom receiver certification tests, Lockheed Martin officials confirmed August 6. The event marked the first tanker not operated by USAF to support air refueling certification trials for the US F-35 test program. Tail AF-4 carried out the initial flight test on July 29 with an IAF tanker flying from Edwards AFB, Calif., completing some 25 boom contacts and offloading an estimated 16,000 pounds of fuel. Testing with the IAF tanker is slated to continue at Edwards until the end of August, according to Lockheed Martin officials. Italy is the first country to participate in refueling certification trials with its own tanker aircraft (the IAF maintains four KC-767A tankers at Pratica di Mare AB, Italy). The Italians are also purchasing their own F-35s, to replace their fleets of Panavia Tornado, AV-8B, and AMX ground attack aircraft, and the tanker trials will enable them to support multinational operations with other countries flying F-35s.