Italy’s first F-35A Lightning II, known as AL-1 and assembled at the Cameri Final Assembly and Check Out (FACO) facility, flew for the first time today marking the program’s first-ever F-35 flight outside the United States.
Lockheed Martin F-35 test pilot Bill “Gigs” Gigliotti, lifted off the runway at 1:05 p.m. European Standard Time for a 1:22 hour check flight in AL-1 marking a historic milestone for Italy, Finmeccanica-Alenia Aermacchi manufacturing cooperation and Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT).
“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,” said Lorraine Martin, Lockheed Martin F-35 Program General Manager. “Italy’s ‘primo volo’ (first flight) sets a firm foundation for Italy’s F-35 program and future opportunities for the Cameri FACO. My heartfelt congratulations to all who worked tirelessly to bring us to this major international program milestone.”
Today’s first flight for AL-1 went as planned. “As expected, the jet performed exceptionally well and without any surprises,” Gigliotti said. “I’m honored to have flown AL-1 on its maiden flight and grateful to the Cameri team for providing a great jet. We look forward to continued successes leading up to aircraft delivery later this year.”
The Cameri FACO is owned by the Italian government and operated by Finmeccanica-Alenia Aermacchi in association with Lockheed Martin. The Cameri FACO’s F-35 production operations began in July 2013 and ‘rolled out’ Italy’s first F-35A aircraft, AL-1, in March. AL-1’s official delivery to Italy is expected by the end of the year. The facility will assemble both Italy’s F-35A conventional takeoff and landing variant and the F-35B short takeoff/vertical landing variant, and is planned to assemble the Royal Netherlands Air Force’s F-35A aircraft in the future. The F-35A and F-35B will replace Italian Air Force and Italian Navy AV-8 Harriers, Panavia Tornados and AMX fighters.
In addition to its responsibility in the operations of the FACO, Finmeccanica-Alenia Aermacchi also produces the F-35A’s full wing-sets. The work contracted to Finmeccanica-Alenia Aermacchi, a strategic co-supplier of F-35A full wing assemblies, is one of the largest manufacturing projects for the Italian F-35 program, with 835 full wing assemblies planned. Finmeccanica participates in the F-35 program also with Selex ES, responsible for various onboard electronics.
The F-35 Lightning II, a 5th generation fighter, combines advanced low observable stealth technology with fighter speed and agility, fully fused sensor information, network-enabled operations and advanced sustainment. More than 130 production F-35s have been delivered to customers and have flown more than 38,700 cumulative fleet flight hours, fleet-wide.