The first F-35 assembled in Italy by the Finmeccanica Group, one of the programme’s partners, has just undertaken its first flight from the Cameri air base, about 30 miles (fifty kilometres) west of Milan. This fifth generation, stealth multi-role aircraft, capable of flying at almost 1,250 mph (2,000 km/h), will be officially delivered, by the end of the year, to the Italian air force as part of a 45 unit order.
The Lockheed Martin F-35 is the most expensive Pentagon armaments programme, ever, at a cost of around $ 400 billion. Despite the 130 aircraft delivered, the ‘plane has not yet been deployed to a theatre of operations; the reason being that it is only this summer that the US Navy announced that it had been put into operational service.
After seven years of delays linked to problems of the aircraft’s mass, software, and engines, the F-35 is still, perhaps, not so ready for combat. During a series of twelve days of tests conducted on a US aircraft carrier (USS Wasp), the ‘plane’s lack of reliability was singled out, together with its restricted weapons payload capacity.
Still, Lockheed Martin is moving forward. Last year 36 F-35’s were delivered, but by 2018, the manufacturer intends to be rolling out over 70 aircraft per year at their American, Italian, and soon Japanese, assembly lines. In total, the F-35 has accumulated some 2,500 firm orders.