The first Short Take-Off/Vertical Landing version of the F-35, or F-35B, was rolled out Friday in Cameri, Italy at the Final Assembly & Check-Out (FACO) facility.
The jet is expected to take its first flight in late August and will be delivered to the Italian Ministry of Defense in November. The next Italian F-35B aircraft is scheduled for delivery in November 2018.
The F-35 Lightning II is “a 5th generation fighter, combining advanced stealth with fighter speed and agility, advanced mission systems, fully fused sensor information, network-enabled operations and cutting-edge sustainment. Three distinct variants of the F-35 will replace the A-10 and F-16 for the U.S. Air Force, the F/A-18 for the U.S. Navy, the F/A-18 and AV-8B Harrier for the U.S. Marine Corps, and a variety of fighters for at least 11 other countries,” reports the Lockheed Martin press release.
A series of confidence flights are in the works from Cameri; and then an Italian pilot will fly the first F-35B jet to Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland, early in 2018 to conduct required Electromagnetic Environmental Effects certification.
The successful roll-out shows “the ongoing strong partnership between the Italian Ministry of Defense, industry partner Leonardo and Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT),” according to a statement by Lockheed. “The Italian FACO is owned by the Italian Ministry of Defense and is operated by Leonardo in conjunction with Lockheed Martin with a current workforce of more than 800 skilled personnel engaged in full assembly of the Conventional Take-off/Landing F-35A and F-35B aircraft variants and F-35A wing production.”
“Italy is not only a valued F-35 program partner that has achieved many F-35 program ‘firsts’, but is also a critical NATO air component force, providing advanced air power for the alliance for the coming decades,” said Doug Wilhelm, vice president of Lockheed Martin F-35 Program Management, who spoke at the event. “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.”