ARRIVING AT Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland, on January 31 was the first Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II to have been assembled outside the US. The Italian Navy aircraft, MM7451 ‘4-01’ (BL-1, Bu No 169423), landed at the base after a transatlantic flight from Cameri Air Base in northern Italy. It will undergo electromagnetic environmental effects certification at Pax River’s Integrated Battlespace Simulation and Test Facility for the next three months.
The aircraft had been completed on the final assembly and check-out (FACO) line at Cameri, where it had been formally accepted by the Italian Ministry of Defence on January 25. Cameri is the only final assembly line for the F-35B variant outside the USA and to date has delivered nine F-35As and one F-35B. Five of the F-35As have been delivered to Amendola Air Base, Italy, while the other four are at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, where international pilots are being trained on the type. Italy plans to order 60 F-35As and 30 F-35Bs, which will all be completed on the FACO line in Cameri. The Italian facility is also scheduled to complete 29 F-35As for the Royal Netherlands Air Force.