Northrop Grumman has delivered the centre fuselage for Japan's first F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, making it the 44th such unit supplied by the manufacturer this year.
Japan's first F-35A conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL) aircraft is designated AX-1, and its centre fuselage is one of the 42 Northrop will be producing for the country's F-35 fleet.
Northrop is a member of Lockheed Martin-led team that is building the F-35 Lightning II JSF for the US and its allies.
The company has designed and produces the centre fuselage for all the three F-35 variants, including the F-35A, the F-35B short takeoff vertical landing, and the F-35C carrier variant.
F-35 is also equipped with Northrop's radar, electro-optical, avionics and communications subsystems, mission systems and mission-planning software. It develops and maintains pilot and maintainer training systems courseware.
The fuselage delivered to Japan is the 206th unit the company has produced at its Palmdale Aircraft Integration Center of Excellence, US.
Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems vice-president and F-35 programme manager Brian Chappel said: "This on-time delivery marks another important step in the F-35 team's drive to support and help fulfill our allies' 21st century national security requirements."
The first four Japanese F-35As, including AX-1, will undergo final assembly and checkout (FACO) at Lockheed Martin's F-35 facility in Fort Worth, Texas, while the remaining 38 (AX-5 through AX-42) will be completed at Japan's new F-35 FACO facility in Nagoya.
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries will perform FACO of the Japanese F-35As.
The process includes joining the centre fuselage to the forward fuselage / cockpit and wings produced by Lockheed Martin, and the aft fuselage and empennage produced by BAE Systems.
Northrop completed the production of the fuselage for Japan's AX-5 in October. It will be assembled in Japan.
Image: The centre fuselage of Japan's AX-5 being prepared at Northrop's facility. Photo: courtesy of Northrop Grumman.