The first F-35B short takeoff/vertical landing (STOVL) variant to be produced outside the US, was rolled out in a ceremony at the Final Assembly and Check Out (FACO) facility in Cameri, Italy, on Friday. The aircraft is one of 30 F-35B variants purchased by Italy for use by both its navy and air force.
Cameri is one of three final assembly locations for the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II, the others being in Nagoya, Japan, and Forth Worth in the US. The latter so far was the only one to also produce the F-35B variant, which in the US is operated by the United States Marine Corps (USMC).
Italy has ordered the STOVL F-35 along with 60 conventional take off F-35A models. Seven of those have so far been delivered, with four in use in the US for pilot training. The remaining three are based at Amendola airbase in Italy, ffrom where they have already chalked up 100 flight hours.
The first Italian-made F-35B should perform its first flight in August and delivery is scheduled in November. After a series of confidence flights, an Italian pilot will fly their first F-35B jet to Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland, early in 2018 to conduct required Electromagnetic Environmental Effects certification. The next Italian F-35B aircraft is scheduled for delivery in November 2018
The Cameri FACO should also deliver two more F-35As to Italy this year; one in July and one later in 2017. The FACO is run by Leonardo Aircraft.
Italy has signed a deal with Italian company Leonardo for the delivery of an initial five M-345 HET (High Efficiency Trainer) aircraft to the Italian Air Force, Leonardo reported on Friday 13 January. Also, a contract was signed for the development of a new light attack and recce helicopter for the Italian Army, replacing the Mangusta. The combined value of the contracts totals over 500 million EUR.
The M-345 HET first flew only on 29 December last year. Leonardo reports that the Italian Air Force has a requirement for around 45 M-345s to replace MB-339 trainers which entered service in 1982. Most noticable, the M-345 HET is to equip Italy’s aerial demonstration team Frecce Tricolori, which now also uses the MB-339. First M-345 delivery is expected by 2019.
In its training role, the new aircraft will work alongside a fleet of 18 twin-engine Aermacchi M-346s ordered by the Italian Air Force for advanced pilot training. Leonardo puts the M-345 and M-346 on the market as ‘the world’s most advanced training system for military pilots’. Airheadsfly.com flew the M-346 last October and was impressed.
The helicopter contract involves the study, development, industrialization, production and testing of a prototype and three initial production helicopters for the Italian Army. The program is aimed at replacing the current fleet of AW129 Mangusta light attack choppers with 48 new assets By that time, the Mangusta will have been in service for over 35 years in operations.
The newest jet trainer made in Italy went to the skies for the first time on 29 December 2016, its maker Leonardo-Fnmeccanica Aircraft announced today. In rather adverse weather conditions, a spokesman confirmed, resulting in the lack of proper photographs of the achievement.
Hence the only photoshopped offical image we could find. Actually, making the first flight in bad weather is something we rather like. It may mean the manufacturer is confident of its product.
The prototype of the new Aermacchi M-345HET (High Efficiency Trainer) two-seat basic jet trainer took of from Venegono Superiore airfield in Varese, Italy, piloted by a crew of two: Quirino Bucci and Giacomo Iannelli from the Leonardo Aircraft Division.
As expected Quirino Bucci, Project Test Pilot Trainers of Leonardo Aircraft Division, expressed great satisfaction at the end of the 30 minute flight. “The aircraft conducted itself perfectly, meeting the expectations of the design parameters while showing excellent performance. The engine in particular demonstrated a great capacity to react to regime changes, which is a fundamental characteristic for a basic training aircraft.”
The M-345’s test campaign will be completed within 2017. The next tests will check the advanced avionics systems, the engine and the flight envelope expansion, including altitude, speed and manoeuvrability. Clean the aircraft is projected to reach 420 knots max level speed and a climb rate of 5,200 foot per minute. It should be operate up to 40,000 feet and as far as 760 nautical miles (1,410 km) with internal fuel. With 2 external fuel tanks the ferry range is aimed to be 1,000 nm (1,850 km).
The Italian Air Force this week was the recipient of the very first F-35 Lightning II jets to be based in Europe. The two aircaft arrived at Amendola airbase after being assembled at the F-35 Final Assembly and Check Out facility in Cameri.
The two jets are in fact the fifth and sixth for the Italian Air Force. The first four aircraft are based at Luke Air Force Base in the US for pilot training. The Italian Air Force’s 32th Wing at Amendola airbase will be the first to operate the new jet in Europe.
The UK, the Netherlands and Norway also already fly the F-35. However, all do so in the US for testing and training. The Royal Netherlands Air Force ferried two jets to Europe last May for four weeks of testing. The Norwegians will introduce the F-35 in Norway in 2017.
The delivery in Italy took place in the same week that saw the first two F-35s delivered Italy. The Israelis started flying their jets immediately after delivery.