The first Italian built F-35 seen during its first flight in September.

First flight of Italian-built F-35

On monday 7 september, 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, 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. for a 1:22 hour check flight in AL-1 marking a milestone for the much criticized, 400 billion USD F-35 program.

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 (click here for a report on that event). 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.

© Lockheed Martin, with additional info by editor Dennis Spronk
Featured image: The first F-35A for the Italian Air Force, taking off from Cameri FACO, making the first F-35 international airspace flight of the Lightning II (Image © Todd McQueen / Lockheed Martin)