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.
Leonardo on Thursday announced plans to build a new aircraft manufacturing facility in Alabama to produce its T-100 integrated jet training system if it comes out winning the T-X competition. The company selected Moton Field Municipal Airport in Tuskegee for the new aircraft manufacturing site and final assembly line ‘because of the available local workforce and resources, plus the exisiting airfield infrastructure.
Leonardo earlier this year selected its US-based affiliate Leonardo DRS at the prime contractor for the T-X bid. Production of Leonardo’s T-100 jet trainer will have to take place in the US in order to have a chance at winning the valuable T-X contract. Under this contract, the Pentagon is to buy over 300 new jet trainers for the US Air Force, which will replace many dozens of old T-38 Talon trainers.
The T-100 is based on the M-346 Master, a jet Airheadsfly.com got to know from the inside last year. The M-346’s twin Honeywell F124 turbofan engines will also power the T-100 and will be built in Phoenix, Arizona.
The T-100 features an embedded training system, fifth-generation cockpit, open system architecture and in-flight refuelling capability and is designed to receive mission-focused next-generation enhancements to meet the requirements set by the U.S. Air Force.
Competitors have until 31 March to actual hand in their proposals. Boeing reported it has already delivered its proposal, while Leonardo now appears to have done the same. No doubt Lockheed Martin will follow with their offer.
Boeing on Thursday 2 March unveiled its MH-139 helicopter, which the company will enter in the competition to replace the US Air Force’s UH-1N Huey fleet. Meanwhile, Lockheed Martin and its subsidiary Sikorsky are pitching their new HH-60U Ghost Hawk.
The US Air Force is looking to replace its UH-1N Hueys, which currently protect intercontinental ballistic missiles and transport government and security forces. The plan is to replace the current Huey fleet — which entered service in the 1970s — with up to 84 new helicopters.
Boeing’s revealed the MH-139 at the Air Force Association Air Warfare Symposium. The offering is based on the Leonardo Helicopters AW139. “This northeast Philadelphia-built aircraft is sized to meet US Air Force requirements and offers more than 1 billion USD in acquisition and lifecycle expense savings over 30 years when compared to competitor aircraft,” said David Koopersmith, vice president and general manager, Boeing Vertical Lift.
The HH-60U Ghost Hawk shares many commonalities with HH-60W combat search and rescue helos currently in production. A decision on which helicopter will eventually replace the Huey in the US Air Force, is still some time away.
Window shopping again, or more than that this time? After several failed attempts and growing friction with suppliers, Poland is having another go at beefing up its helicopter capabilities. The country is looking for eight anti-submarine choppers plus another eight helos for use by special forces, the ministry of Defense in Warsaw said on Monday 20 February.
Airbus Helicopters, Leonardo Helicopters and Lockheed Martin have been asked to come up with bids. The new choppers should replace ageing Mi-8 Hip and Mi-14 Haze helicopters that have been in Polish services for decades already, dating back to Eastern Bloc-times.
For Airbus Helicopters, this newest Polish tender will breng back the headaches that came with the selection of the H225 Caracal by Poland back in April 2015. After much hassle, that 3 billion USD deal was finally scrapped last year. Lockheed Martin (after taking over helicopters manufacturer Sikorsky first) then seemed to have the best cards for a Polish helicopter deal. However, that too appeared to be window shopping in the end.
Pakistan as ordered another bacth of AW139 helicopters from Italian company Leonardo. The contract follows a similar order that was signed in May 2016, and once again the exact number of helicopters ordered remains ‘undisclosed’. The latest batch of AW139s will be used to perform utility and transport operations across the nation. Deliveries are expected to start in mid-2017.
According to Leonardo, the AW139 is the perfect fit to Pakistan’s operational environment, delivering capabilities ideal for hot and high operations.
So far, over 970 AW139 helicopters have been sold to more than 240 customers in over 70 nations. Out of those, over 830 have been delivered as of now.