Italy Just Built Its First F-35B Stealth Jump Jet
It's the first F-35B to be produced outside the United States
On May 5, 2017, the first F-35B — the vertical-landing variant of the stealthy Joint Strike Fighter — rolled out of the final-assembly and check-out facility at Cameri, in northwestern Italy.
The F-35 will serve in the Italian navy.
The aircraft, designated BL-1, is the first F-35B to be assembled outside of the United States. It is expected to perform its first flight in late August 2017. Cameri will deliver the jet to the Italian defense ministry in November 2017.
After a series of “confidence flights” from Cameri, in early 2018 an Italian pilot will fly the first F-35B jet to Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland for electromagnetic environmental effects certification.
The next Italian F-35B is scheduled for delivery in November 2018. According to a Lockheed Martin release, Cameri will also deliver two F-35As in 2017 — the first by July and the second in the fourth quarter.
Since the first JSF delivery in December 2015, the factory has assembled seven F-35As. Four of those jets are now at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona for international pilot training. Three are with the Italian air force’s 13° Gruppo at Amendola Air Base near Foggia on the Adriatic coast.
On Feb. 5, 2016 the first Italian air force F-35 completed the type’s very first transatlantic crossing, flying from Italy to Patuxent River. On Dec. 12, 2016, the Italian air force became the first non-American air arm to take delivery of operational F-35s.
An Italian F-35A flies across the Atlantic in February 2016. Italian air force photo
“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,” Doug Wilhelm, a Lockheed Martin vice president, said at the F-35B roll-out. “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 101-acre checkout facility includes 22 buildings and more than a million square feet of covered work space housing 11 assembly stations and five maintenance, repair, overhaul and upgrade bays. It’s owned by the Italian ministry of defense and operated by Leonardo in conjunction with Lockheed Martin.Eight hundred people work at the site.
Besides assembling F-35As and F-35Bs, the Italian plant is also producing 835 wing sets for F-35As being assembled all over the world.
The Cameri facility in only one outside of the United States capable of assembling F-35Bs. It will put together the 60 F-35As and 30 F-35Bs that Italy has on order and will also build 29 F-35As for the Royal Netherlands Air Force. In December 2014, the JSF program selected Cameri as the F-35 maintenance, overhaul and upgrade center for all of Europe.