Lockheed Martin has rolled out the first short take-off / vertical landing version of the F-35B Lightning II joint strike fighter from its Final Assembly and Check Out (FACO) facility at Cameri Air Base in northern Italy.
The FACO facility is operated by Leonardo in collaboration with Lockheed Martin and owned by the Italian Ministry of Defense.
The site is currently operated with a workforce of more than 800 skilled personnel who carry out the full assembly of the conventional take-off / landing F-35A and F-35B aircraft variants, as well as production of the F-35A wing.
Lockheed Martin F-35 Programme Management vice-president Doug Wilhelm said: “Italy is not only a valued F-35 programme partner that has achieved many F-35 programme 'firsts', but is also a critical North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (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.”
The F-35B jet is to be delivered to the Italian Ministry of Defense in November this year, following its first scheduled flight in late August.
Additionally, two Italian F-35A aircraft are also due for delivery from the Cameri FACO facility this year, with the first jet slated to be provided by July, while the second aircraft will be delivered in the fourth quarter of the year.
The first F-35B jet will be flown to the Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland, US, early next year, to conduct required Electromagnetic Environmental Effects certification after a series of confidence flights from the Cameri facility.
Italy's next F-35B aircraft is expected to be delivered in November 2018.
The F-35 jet is a next-generation fighter that combines advanced stealth with fighter speed and agility, advanced mission systems, fully fused sensor information, network-enabled operations and cutting-edge sustainment capabilities.
Image: The first F-35B built at Cameri Final Assembly & Check-Out (FACO) facility in Italy. Photo: courtesy of Aeronautica Militare.