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News | Oct. 9, 2019

F-35 international partnership delivers FACO milestone

By DCMA Europe

The first Royal Netherlands Air Force F-35A Lightning II joint strike fighter assembled at Italy’s Final Assembly and Check-Out facility was unveiled during a ceremony here, Sept. 12.

The event marked a major milestone for the F-35 Partnership Program. In this case, the Defense Contract Management Agency combined with its industry counterparts at Lockheed Martin and Italy’s Leonardo S.p.A. to reach this achievement.

For DCMA Europe Commander Navy Capt. Brent Dessing, the unveiling is just the beginning.

“I am very proud of the entire DCMA Europe team,” he said. “It is a great day seeing the joint strike fighter program deliver incredible capability to the warfighter. The ceremony was exciting as it brought together U.S., Italian and Dutch partners to mark the first Dutch aircraft of many that will come from Cameri. From witnessing the roll-out ceremony on Thursday to observing the successful company test flight on Friday, the great work of all involved was on full display.”

Government test flights scheduled for October will complete the final assembly and check out procedures. The process is scheduled to culminate in delivery to the Royal Netherlands Air Force, or RNLAF, Oct. 31. DCMA’s surveillance process requires numerous inspections and tests that include four test and acceptance flights — with two performed by Lockheed Martin pilots and two by DCMA pilots. These flights confirm airworthiness and safety of flight as well as verifying mission system specification compliance, according to Dessing.

This aircraft will be the first of 37 delivered to the Netherlands. Of those 37 aircraft, the RNLAF will receive eight F-35A conventional take-off and landing fifth-generation stealth fighters produced stateside and another 29 built in Italy.

“After delivery, DCMA’s mission will continue during depot-level maintenance and future modifications for the F-35 aircraft,” said Dessing.

The DCMA sustainment mission includes aircraft lifecycle oversight on the jet itself, F-135 engine, electronic warfare systems, command and control computers, software development and integration, spare parts, training, logistical support, U.S. government and contractor technical support services, and other equipment.

Italy’s FACO facility was the first fully-operational international F-35 production site. The second is located in Nagoya, Japan. Italy delivered the first internationally-built F-35 in December 2015.

DCMA’s administration of the F-35 program involves more than 1,500 active global suppliers, making it the largest aircraft program in size and complexity.

According to the Joint Strike Fighter Program Office, the F-35 global alliances and capabilities continue to grow. Milestones for the program’s international partners from May 2017 to July 2019 include: first aircraft arrivals for Norway, the United Kingdom, Japan and Australia; declarations of initial operating capability for Israel, Italy and the United Kingdom; and training for Korean maintenance personnel began in January at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida.