CAMERI AIR BASE, Italy --- Italy’s first F-35B Lightning II, a Short Take Off and Vertical Landing (STOVL) variant assembled at the Final Assembly and Check Out (FACO) facility and known as BL-1, flew and hovered here for the first time today.
Lockheed Martin F-35 test pilot Paul “Hat” Hattendorf, flew BL-1’s first flight on Oct. 25. On Oct.30, during the third and final acceptance flight, Hattendorf successfully operated the jet in all STOVL modes, to include hovering over the runway.
To date, eight 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 four are at Amendola Air Base, near Foggia on the Adriatic coast.
After delivery to the MOD later this year, an Italian pilot is programmed to fly Italy’s first F-35B jet to Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland, early in 2018 to conduct required Electromagnetic Environmental Effects certification.
On Sept. 7, 2015, the first Italian-produced F-35 built at the Cameri FACO made the first international flight in F-35 program history, and in February 2016, the very same aircraft was flown by an Italian Air Force pilot to the United States, making the F-35 Program's first-ever trans-Atlantic crossing. In December 2016, the Italian Air Force's first F-35As arrived at the first in-country base, Amendola Air Base.