Lockheed Martin has rolled out the first F-35A Lightning II joint strike fighter aircraft from the Final Assembly and Check Out (FACO) facility at Cameri Air Base in northern Italy.
The aircraft, known as AL-1, is the first internationally assembled F-35. It will proceed to additional check-out activities before embarking on its first flight for the Italian Air Force later this year.
Seven more aircraft are currently being assembled at the facility.
The Cameri FACO is owned by the Italian Defence Ministry, and is jointly operated by Lockheed and Alenia Aermacchi with a current workforce of more than 750 personnel engaged in F-35 aircraft and wing production.
Lockheed Martin executive vice-president and F-35 programme manager Lorraine Martin said: "The Cameri FACO is truly a national crown jewel, currently assembling the first eight Italian F-35As and producing wings for all F-35As fleet-wide.
"Additionally, as the European F-35 airframe maintenance, repair, overhaul and upgrade centre, it will generate thousands of long-term, high-tech jobs for the Italian people for decades.
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"Lockheed Martin is proud of its relationship with Italy and values the highly-skilled Alenia Aermacchi workforce building this incredible jet."
The FACO is scheduled to manufacture all Italian F-35A and F-35B aircraft. It is also programmed to build F-35As for the Royal Netherlands Air Force, while retaining the capacity to supply to other European partners in the future.
The 101-acre facility houses 11 assembly stations, and five maintenance, repair, overhaul and upgrade bays. It was also selected by the US Department of Defense as the F-35 heavy airframe maintenance, repair, overhaul and upgrade facility for the European region in December 2014.
Recently, the FACO completed its first full F-35A wing section that will soon be shipped to Lockheed’s F-35 production line in Fort Worth, Texas, US, for final assembly.
The F-35 is a fifth-generation multi-role fighter aircraft, and is designed to conduct a wide range of ground attack, reconnaissance, and air defence missions with stealth capability.
The three F-35 variants include a conventional take-off and landing aircraft for the US and allied air forces, a short takeoff and landing fighter for the US Marine Corps and the UK Royal Navy, as well as a carrier version for the US Navy.
Image: The first Italian assembled F-35A aircraft rolls out of the Cameri Final Assembly and Check Out facility in Italy. Photo: courtesy of Lockheed Martin photo by Larry Bramblett.