The fuselage will be incorporated into the F-35 conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL) variant, which is scheduled to be designated as AF-41, and delivered to the US Air Force (USAF) for pilot training at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona, US.
Northrop Grumman F-35 programme vice president Michelle Scarpella said the delivery represents a testament to the company’s commitment and efficiencies of its Integrated Assembly Line (IAL).
Designed and developed in collaboration with KUKA Robotics Aerospace Division, the IAL plays a central role in production of the F-35 centre fuselage, in addition to increasing the programme’s affordability, quality and efficiency.
Besides producing the centre fuselage since May 2004, Northrop also designs and manufactures the aircraft’s radar and other key avionics, including electro-optical and communications subsystems, serving as a principal member of the Lockheed-led F-35 industry team.
The company is also responsible for the development of mission systems and mission-planning software, apart from leading the team’s development of pilot and maintenance training system courseware, as well as management of the team’s use, support and maintenance of low-observable technologies.
Currently under development in three versions, including a CTOL variant, a short takeoff and landing (STOVL) and a carrier version (CV), the F-35 JSF is a fifth-generation multirole fighter designed to conduct ground attack, reconnaissance and air defence missions with stealth capability.
Principally financed by the US, the JSF programme also receives additional funding from the UK and seven international partners, including Australia, Canada, Denmark, Italy, Netherlands, Norway and Turkey.
Image: F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter at Nellis AFB in Nevada, US. Photo courtesy of US Air Force photo / Lawrence Crespo.