By Jon Lake

Governments agree to JSF assembly line in Italy

The US and Italian governments have reached agreement to site a final assembly and check out (FACO) line for the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter at Cameri in Piedmont, northern Italy.

The line will be the responsibility of the Alenia business unit of Finmeccanica, but will be owned by the Italian Government.
Alenia will be responsible to Lockheed Martin for delivery of the aircraft. Sources say Cameri has been selected in preference to Alenia's existing facility at Caselle, largely on security grounds.

Construction of the FACO at Cameri, a highly secure and remote Italian air force base that is home to Italian Tornado maintenance, and which already hosts the Italian Bell Agusta BA609 test programme, will begin in 2010, leading to initial aircraft deliveries in 2014.

Though the two governments have agreed to the line in principal, final agreements have still to be hammered out. Lockheed requires that any FACO should be ‘cost neutral’, and Alenia must meet particular US security requirements before it can obtain the required technical assistance agreement – though the physical security provided by basing the FACO at an active Italian air force base may facilitate this.

Italy has had a long-standing aspiration to host a European assembly line for the Joint Strike Fighter, hoping to assemble and maintain the 131 F-35s that Italy has ordered, as well as some of those being purchased by other European customers.

Siting of a FACO in country may also help calm concerns over technology transfer and operational sovereignty, and may enhance Italy’s ability to autonomously support, sustain and upgrade its own aircraft.

The Netherlands (which has ordered 85 aircraft) is believed to have already agreed to use the Italian-based FACO. Some reports have suggested that Dutch industry would receive work on Italian JSF engines as part of the same deal, while Norway is reported as having been present at the meeting that led to the agreement between Netherlands and Italy.

Source: Flight Daily News