Tag Archives: Cameri

First F-35B Assembled Internationally And Destined To The Italian Air Force Has Completed Its First Short Take Off And Vertical Landing

The first Italian F-35B has performed its first STOVL test flight.

On Oct. 30, the first Italian F-35B, the first assembled outside the US, carried out its first flight in short-take and vertical landing mode (STOVL) from Cameri airfield, home of the Final Assembly and Check Out (FACO) facility, in northwestern Italy.

According to an official LM release, during the flight, a Lockheed Martin test pilot performed perfectly all STOVL mode operations, including hovering on the runway, reaching another milestone for the F-35 program in Italy. The test pilots will perform other tests before the official BL-1 aircraft is delivered to the Italian Air Force: this is worth of note since a previous release stated that the first Italian F-35B would be taken on charge by the Italian Navy. Indeed, Italy plans to procure 90 F-35s, 60 F-35As for the Air Force and 30 F-35Bs for both the ItAF and Italian Navy. Therefore, the Italian Air Force will operate a fleet of CTOL (Conventional Take Off and Landing) and STOVL stealth jet with the latter considered to be pivotal to operate in expeditionary scenarios: a decision that has long been debated, with some analysts considering the STOVL variant unnecessary for the ItAF given that the the F-35 CTOL features a longer range and a reduced logistic footprint than the F-35B, especially in the TDY scenarios.

The aircraft, designated BL-1, had successfully completed its maiden flight on Oct. 24.

After delivery to the Italian MoD, scheduled by the end of the year, the Air Force will transfer the aircraft to the Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland, early 2018, to obtain the Electromagnetic Environmental Effects certification.

Image credit: Sergio Marzorati via LM

First F-35B Assembled Internationally Rolled Out of Cameri FACO Production Facility

It’s the first F-35B assembled outside of the U.S.

On May. 5, the first F-35B, the Short Take-Off Vertical Landing variant of the the F-35 Lightning II, destined to the Italian Navy, rolled out of the Final Assembly and Check Out (FACO) facility at Cameri, in northwestern Italy.

The aircraft, designated BL-1, is the first F-35B assembled internationally. It is expected to perform its first flight in late August and will be delivered to the Italian MoD in November 2017. After a series of “confidence flights” from Cameri, an Italian pilot will fly the 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.

According to a Lockheed Martin release, besides the first B example, two Italian F-35A aircraft will be delivered from Cameri this year, the first by July and the second in the fourth quarter. To date, seven F-35As have been delivered from the Cameri FACO; four of those jets are now based at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, for international pilot training and three are at Amendola Air Base, near Foggia on the Adriatic coast. With these aircraft based in Italy and flown by the 13° Gruppo, the Aeronautica Militare (Italian Air Force) has already flown more than 100 flight hours.

In spite of a very low profile on the subject, Italy has achieved some important results with the F-35.

On Dec. 3, 2015, the ItAF welcomed the first F-35 at the Cameri FACO. That aircraft was also the first assembled and delivered outside the U.S.

On Feb. 5, 2016 the first Italian Air Force F-35, successfully completed the type’s very first transatlantic crossing landing at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland. On Dec. 12, 2016, the Italian Air Force became the first service to take delivery of the first operational F-35s outside the United States.

“Italy is not only a valued F-35 program partner that has achieved many F-35 program ‘firsts’, but is also a critical NATO air component force, providing advanced airpower for the alliance for the coming decades,” Doug Wilhelm, Lockheed Martin F-35 Program Management vice president, said at the event for the roll out of the first F-35B. “Italian industry has participated in the design of the F-35 and Italian industry made components fly on every production F-35 built to date.”

The Italian FACO, a 101-acre facility including 22 buildings and more than one million square feet of covered work space, housing 11 assembly stations, and five maintenance, repair, overhaul, and upgrade bays, is owned by the Italian Ministry of Defense and is operated by Leonardo in conjunction with Lockheed Martin Aeronautics. According to Lockheed, 800 skilled personnel are engaged in full assembly of the Conventional Take-off/Landing F-35A and F-35B aircraft variants and is also producing 835 F-35A full wing sets to support all customers in the program.

The Cameri FACO has the only F-35B production capability outside the United States. It will assemble the 60 Italian F-35As and 30 F-35Bs (for a total of 90 aircraft to be procured by the Italian Air Force and Navy), will build 29 F-35A for the Royal Netherlands Air Force and was selected in December 2014 as the European F-35 airframe Maintenance, Repair, Overhaul and Upgrade center for the entire European region.

In spite of some initial internal criticism and threatened cuts, F-35s will replace the Italian Air Force ageing Tornado and AMX attack planes and the Italian Navy AV-8B aircraft.

Image credit: LM

 

The Italian Air Force welcomes the first F-35A delivered outside the U.S.

The first F-35 delivered outside the U.S. was taken on charge by the Italian Air Force.

On Dec. 3, Lt. Gen. Pasquale Preziosa, Chief of the Italian Air Force, welcomed the first Italian F-35A at the F-35 Final Assembly and Check Out (FACO) facility at Cameri, in northwestern Italy.

Not only is the AL-1 (as the aircraft is designated) the first F-35 for the Italian armed forces but it is also the first assembled and delivered outside the U.S.

With the delivery of its first aircraft, Italy becomes the sixth nation to receive an F-35 joining Australia, Netherlands, Norway, United Kingdom and the U.S. that already operate the aircraft at various airbase across the United States.

The aircraft for the Italian Air Force, that made its very first flight from Cameri airbase on Sept. 7, it’s the first of eight aircraft currently being assembled at the Italian FACO that will assemble all the remaining F-35A and F-35B for the Italian Air Force and Navy, and build F-35A for the Royal Netherlands Air Force.

AL-1 will be delivered to Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, in 2016 (with the support of an Italian Air Force KC-767 tanker, the first international tanker to refuel the JSF) where Italy’s first two pilots have recently begun F-35 flight training..

Italy is a Tier II partner in the F-35 program. So far, the Government has invested 3.5 billion USD in the program with an industrial return, in terms of contracts signed, that amounts to +1 billion USD.
That said, industrial participation in the program includes Alenia Aeronautica supplying wing sets (about 75% of Italy’s participation in the program) and other companies of the Finmeccanica group supplying work on some of those quite critical systems, including the EOTS (Electro-Optical Targeting System).

Despite the cuts, the program has attracted a significant chunk of Italy’s defense budget: for this reason the F-35 surely the most famous defense program in Italy. And the most controversial. So much so that it has become a very “sensitive” subject.

A large part of the public opinion, as well as many Italian lawmakers are against it, because they believe that the about 13 billion Euro for the F-35 and no significant industrial gains can’t co-exist with the country’s fragile public finances. However, as a consequence of the cuts (from 131 to 90 examples, with the “promise” to consider more cuts if needed), the assignment of the European FACO to Cameri, and a significant investment already done (Rome remains the second largest contributing partner after the UK) the Italian Government has been able to save the F-35 and ensure the Italian Air Force its 5th generation aircraft to replace the ageing (and for this reason costly) AMX and Tornado fleets, and the Navy its F-35Bs to replace the AV-8B+ Harrier jump jets.

Image credit: Lockheed Martin’s Thinh Nguyen

 

Preserved aircraft at the Museo Storico Aeroporto Cameri

After publishing the article about the preserved aircraft found at Istrana airbase by Matteo Marianeschi (http://cencio4.wordpress.com/2009/06/20/images-from-istrana-airbase-home-of-the-51%c2%b0-stormo/), I was contacted by Simone Bovi who told me he had taken some picture of another interesting collection of preserved aircraft: the ones exhibited at the Cameri airport. The following pictures show some of the aircraft of the Museo Storico Aeroporto Cameri.

Another supersonic scramble

Even if in the F-104 age there were many scrambles, I remember that only a few times the interceptor “broke” the sound barrier during the mission. Even in the post 911 period, until 2004, under highened security measures, the QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) aircraft rarely performed supersonic interceptions (or at least the went through Mach 1 above the sea and were not heard from the people on the ground).

In the last year at least three times the fighter scrambled to intercept a “zombie” performed a supersonic acceleration causing a loud sonic boom that was heard by the population.

The last occurrence was on Oct 8 when 2 F-16 of the 37° Stormo based in Trapani were scrambled at 07.18 LT from the COFA/CAOC5 to intercept an unknown aircraft flying without the FPL (Flight Plan).

The Vipers on alert took off in 6 minutes and were vectored to intercept the unknown aircraft that despite being identified by the ATC (Air Traffic Control) had provided unclear information and had decided to change its routing after being informed of the imminent interception by the Italian Air Defense. At around 40.000 feet above the Gulf of Naples the two F-16 went supersonic. At 07.45LT the 2 F-16 ADF reached the Byelorussian Ilyushin 76, flying from Sebha, Libya, to Linz, Austria, between Foggia and Napoli, and escorted it until it exited the Italian airspace, above the Adriatic, North of the Tremiti Islands.

On Sept. 16, two F-2000 of the 4° Stormo, based in Grosseto, had departed at 18.45LT to intercept a Czech Boeing 737 from Tunis to Praha, that had lost the radio contact with the ATC flying abeam Rome. During the initial phase of the interception the two Eurofighter accelerated above Mach 1 causing a sonic boom that was heard from many miles away. The two fighters did not complete the mission since the civilian aircraft was able to establish the contact with the ACC and the F-2000 were cleared to RTB (Return To Base).

On May 30, two F-16s belonging to the 37° Stormo of Trapani were scrambled to intercept the Lufthansa flight LH8619T, that was flying from Milan Linate to Athinai, and at 08.29 LT lost the radio contact with Padova ATC. The QRA flight of Southern Italy was immediately scrambled to intercept and escort the civilian A300 and two armed “Vipers”, just after take off, were cleared to accelerate to supersonic speed in order to reach the “zombie” in the shortest time possible. The consequent shock wave caused a loud “bang” that was heard from the ground.

The two fighters were cruising above Mach 1, when the Lufthansa flight was able to establish the radio contact with “Brindisi Control”, and they were ordered to “skip it”, to slow down to subsonic speed and RTB. The F-16s made a fuel stop to Gioia del Colle before proceeding to Trapani.

As I have already explained here, unlike it happened in the past, when there were many bases sharing the QRA duties in Northern and Southern Italy (at the end of the ’80s they were: Istrana, Cameri, Rimini, Grosseto, Grazzanise, Gioia del Colle, Trapani and Sigonella, where a cell was deployed on rotation) the current Italian Air Defense set up foresees two QRA (Norther and Southern), each made of a flight of 2 fighters ready for departure in 15 minutes: 2 fighters in either Grosseto (9° Gruppo, equipped with the F-2000 Typhoon) or Cervia (23° Gruppo, equipped with the F-16ADF); and 2 aircraft in Trapani (where two Squadrons share the alert shifts, the 10° and 18° Gruppo).

It is normal that to intercept a “zombie” asap, possibly departing from an airbase far away (in more than 3-5 minutes like the F-104 was able to do), the fighters are compelled to fly supersonic. Since both Cervia and Trapani are going to cease their QRA shifts with the expiration of the Peace Caesar programme, from 2010 – 2011 there will only be two Eurofighter MOBs (Main Operating Bases) fulfilling the Air Defense duties with the Typhoon: Grosseto (9° Gruppo and 20 OCU) and Gioia del Colle (12° and 10° Gruppo).

So, the situation is not going to change in the near future. Actually, it was not completely different before, since there were always 2 bases with QRA cells (one in the North and one in the South with another two in 2 hours stand by alert) and it could happen that a flight of F-104 from Grazzanise had to intercept a Tu-16 above the Adriatic Sea. However, there were many other airbases distributed on the peninsula: it often happened that the alert one was also near (or the nearest) to the “zombie”, thus interception took place in short time and without the need of supersonic accelerations.