Northrop Grumman has completed the delivery of the 500th centre fuselage for the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter aircraft.
Designated AU-18, the 500th F-35 centre fuselage is designed to support the F-35A conventional take-off and landing variant for the Royal Australian Air Force.
Production on the AU-18 centre fuselage commenced in June on the firm’s integrated assembly line (IAL) at its Palmdale Aircraft Integration Centre of Excellence in California, US.
The facility uses technologies such as robotics, autonomous systems, virtual 3D and predictive automation for the centre fuselage production.
Northrop Grumman vice-president and F-35 programme manager Frank Carus said: “We deliver an F-35 centre fuselage every 36 hours and I am very proud to say we have made all our deliveries since the inception of the programme.
“Our dedicated team works closely with the customer and suppliers to improve quality and affordability in support of the warfighter.”
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The company has been producing centre fuselages for all three F-35 variants since May 2004 and entered full-rate production in June.
Northrop Grumman military aircraft systems sector vice-president and general manager Kevin Mickey said: “We have set the standard for the production of military aircraft. Our teams and suppliers are constantly finding better, more affordable ways to deliver a superior product on-time, at-cost and, as with this centre fuselage, ahead of schedule.
“When you couple this level of commitment with advanced manufacturing technologies, it’s just a win-win situation for us, our customer and the warfighter.”
Northrop Grumman supports the F-35 programme, contributing to the development, modernisation, sustainment and production of the aircraft.
In addition to the centre fuselage and wing skins, Northrop Grumman develops, produces and maintains several sensor systems, avionics, mission systems and mission-planning software.