Italy’s first F-35A Lightning II aircraft has flown for the first time, achieving a significant millstone in the country’s airspace capabilities.
The latest development also marks the F-35 programme’s first-ever F-35 flight outside the US.
Designated as AL-1, the aircraft was assembled in Cameri Final Assembly and Check Out (FACO) facility and is the first internationally assembled F-35.
Lockheed Martin F-35 programme general manager Lorraine Martin said: "The first flight of AL-1 is a monumental achievement thanks to the hard work and dedication of our Finmeccanica-Alenia Aermacchi and Lockheed Martin teammates.
"Italy’s ‘primo volo’ (first flight) sets a firm foundation for Italy’s F-35 programme and future opportunities for the Cameri FACO."
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.
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.
Seven more aircraft are currently being assembled at the facility.
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: Italy’s AL-1. Photo: courtesy of Lockheed Martin Corporation.