PALMDALE, Calif., July 23 (UPI) -- Assembly of the first F-35 Joint Strike Fighter in Italy is set to begin with Northrop Grumman's delivery of the aircraft's center fuselage.
The center fuselage was delivered to a newly built Final Assembly and Check Out facility at an Italian air force base and will be integrated into a conventional takeoff and landing variant of the plane.
"We started working on AL-1 (the first center fuselage) in September 2012, when it was inducted into our Integrated Assembly Line (IAL) at our Palmdale facility," said Michelle Scarpella, vice president of the F-35 program for Northrop Grumman.
"It's the 115th center fuselage we've completed here in Palmdale and marks another program milestone as we continue to stand up and grow international F-35 participation."
The newly commissioned FACO is on 101 acres, has 22 buildings and 11 final assembly workstations, including four outfitted for electronic mate and assembly, and five maintenance, repair, overhaul and upgrade bays.
A total of 90 F-35 center fuselages are to be delivered to the facility, the first of its kind in Europe for the F-35.
Northrop Grumman produces center fuselages for the Lockheed Martin-led F-35 team as well as radar and other key avionics for the aircraft.