Italy builds first F-35B outside USA

The first short take-off/vertical landing F-35B assembled outside the United States rolled out of its Final Assembly and Check Out (FACO) facility in Camera, Italy, yesterday.

CAPTION: Italy’s first home-built F-35B rolls out of final assembly. Lockheed Martin photo.

Italy’s FACO is owned by the Italian Ministry of Defense and operated by Leonardo in conjunction with Lockheed Martin with a current workforce of more than 800, engaged in full assembly of F-35A and F-35B variants, as well as F-35A wing sets.

Italian defense chief General Claudio Graziano, secretary general of defense/director of National Armament General Carlo Magrassi, deputy program executive officer at the F-35 Joint Program Office Admiral Mathias Winter, Leonardo Aircraft Division’s Managing Director Filippo Bagnato and Lockheed Martin F-35 Program Management vice president Doug Wilhelm all spoke at the milestone event.

Mr Wilhelm said Italy was not only a valued F-35 program partner that had achieved many F-35 program ‘firsts’, but was also a critical NATO air component force, providing advanced airpower for the alliance for the coming decades.

“Italian industry has participated in the design of the F-35 and Italian-industry-made components fly on every production F-35 built to date,” he said.

BL-1’s first flight is anticipated in late August and it is programmed to be delivered to the Italian Ministry of Defense in November.

In addition, two Italian F-35A aircraft will also be delivered from Cameri this year, the first by July and the second in the fourth quarter.

To date, seven F-35As have been delivered from the Cameri FACO; four of those jets are now based at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, for international pilot training and three are at Amendola Air Base, near Foggio on the Adriatic coast.

Aeronautica Militare (Italian Air Force) has already flown more than 100 flight hours in its Amendola-based F-35As.

After a series of confidence flights from Cameri, an Italian pilot will fly their first F-35B jet to Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland, early next year to conduct required electromagnetic environmental effects certification.

The next Italian F-35B aircraft is scheduled for delivery in November 2018.

Cameri’s FACO has the only F-35B production capability outside the United States and is programmed to produce a total of 30 Italian F-35Bs and 60 Italian F-35As, along with 29 F-35As for the Royal Netherlands Air Force, and retains the capacity to deliver to other European partners in the future.

The Italian FACO will also produce 835 F-35A full wing sets to support all customers in the program – and was selected by the US Department of Defense in 2014 as the F-35 Lightning II Heavy Airframe Maintenance, Repair, Overhaul and Upgrade facility for the European region.

Set on 101 acres, the Italian facility includes 22 buildings and more than one million square feet of covered work space, housing 11 assembly stations, and five maintenance, repair, overhaul, and upgrade bays.

On September 7, 2015, the first Italian-produced F-35 built at the Cameri FACO made the first international flight in F-35 program history, and in February 2016, the F-35A made the program’s first trans-Atlantic crossing. In December 2016, the Italian Air Force’s first F-35s arrived at the first in-country base, Amendola AB.

Italy’s F-35As and Bs will eventually replace Aeronautica Militare’s legacy Panavia Tornado, AMX and AV-8B aircraft.

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Brian Hartigan

Managing Editor Contact Publishing Pty Ltd PO Box 3091 Minnamurra NSW 2533 AUSTRALIA

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