Lockheed Martin is the designer of the F-35, and Leonardo has been chosen as its partner in this program, being one of the global key players in aerospace, defence and security. Leonardo's largest shareholder is the Italian Ministry of Economy and Finance.
The STOVL version of the F-35 is named F-35B and is the world's first supersonic stealth aircraft with the capacity of leaving the ground vertically, allowing it to operate from austere bases and a range of air-capable ships near front-line combat zones. On top of that, the aircraft is equipped with advanced mission systems, fully fused sensor information, network-enabled operations and cutting-edge sustainment. The first squadron of ten F-35Bs was deployed by the U.S. Marine Corps' in 2015, when the plane was declared ready for worldwide deployment.
"Italy is not only a valued F-35 program partner that has achieved many F-35 program 'firsts', but is also a critical NATO air component force, providing advanced air power for the alliance for the coming decades," according to U.S. Admiral Mathias Winter, of the F-35 Joint Project Office, which is the military body that makes all decisions about F-35 contracts and production. The F-35B will have its first flight later this month and will be delivered to the Italian Ministry of Defence in November.