F-35 program partner Italy rolled out the first short takeoff/vertical landing (STOVL) version of that fifth-generation fighter May 5 from its assembly facility near Milan, prime contractor Lockheed Martin said.
The F-35B produced at the Final Assembly and Check Out (FACO) facility at Cameri Air Base west of Milan is the first assembled outside the U.S. It is the only F-35B production site outside the U.S. The facility is owned by Italy’s defense ministry and operated by Italian aerospace and defense manufacturer Leonardo in league with Lockheed Martin, that company said.
The new F-35B’s first flight is planned for late August, Lockheed Martin said, and the aircraft is scheduled to be delivered to the Italian defense ministry in November. The Cameri facility also is scheduled to deliver two Italian F-35As this year, one by July and the other in the fourth quarter.
The facility previously has delivered seven conventional takeoff F-35As. Its 800-plus workers are assembling F-35As and Bs and making 835 F-35A full-wing sets to support all customers in the international fighter program.
Of the seven F-35As delivered from Cameri FACO, four are based at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, for international pilot training and three are at Amendola Air Base, near Foggio on the Adriatic coast. The 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 the new F-35B to Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland, early in 2018 for required electromagnetic environmental effects certification. The next Italian F-35B is scheduled for delivery in November 2018.
The Cameri facility is scheduled to produce 30 Italian F-35Bs and 60 Italian F-35As, along with 29 F-35As for the Royal Netherlands Air Force.