Industry partners Leonardo and Lockheed Martin have delivered the first ever indigenously built F-35B Lightning II fighter aircraft to the Italian Ministry of Defence at the Final Assembly and Check Out (FACO) facility at Cameri.

The new short take-off / vertical landing (STOVL) F-35B jet has been assigned for operation with the Italian Navy.

The Italy-based FACO facility is jointly operated by Leonardo and Lockheed Martin and has a workforce of more than 800 personnel, who are currently working on the full assembly of the conventional take-off / landing F-35A and F-35B STOVL aircraft variants, in addition to wing production of the F-35A.

"The production of the first F-35 B-model here at the Italian FACO is a testament to the outstanding capability and quality of the Italian aerospace industry."

Lockheed Martin F-35 Programme Management vice-president Doug Wilhelm said: “The production of the first F-35 B-model, the most technically complex variant, here at the Italian FACO is a testament to the outstanding capability and quality of the Italian aerospace industry.”

The three distinct variants of the F-35 fighter jet will replace and supplement the A-10 and F-16 aircraft for the US Air Force (USAF) and the F/A-18 for the US Navy, as well as the F/A-18 and AV-8B Harrier for the US Marine Corps (USMC).

Furthermore, the new aircraft will be used to replace a wide range of fighter jets for at least 11 additional countries.

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The Italian-built F-35As/Bs will also help replace the traditional Panavia Tornado, AMX and AV-8B aircraft.

A total of nine F-35A fighter jets and one F-35B aircraft have been delivered from the Cameri FACO facility to date.

The FACO facility is the only F-35B manufacturing location outside the US.

It has also been programmed to construct 29 F-35A aircraft for the Royal Netherlands Air Force.