July 12, 2004 (by Lieven Dewitte) - Workers at Lockheed Martin's mile-long factory in Fort Worth have begun assembling the forward fuselage for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
Shortly after 8 a.m. on Monday, July 12, workers loaded an F-35 structural bulkhead into an assembly tool, marking the official start of forward-fuselage production for the aircraft. Assembly of the F-35's wings will begin at the plant in a few weeks.
Lockheed Martin and its principal industrial partners Northrop Grumman and BAE
SYSTEMS are employing an array of advanced and highly accurate manufacturing machines to help the F-35 achieve its goals of affordability, quality and assembly speed.
Assembly of the center fuselage began in May at Northrop Grumman's facility in Palmdale, Calif. BAE SYSTEMS will begin assembling the aft-fuselage and tails later this year in Samlesbury, England. Those subassemblies will be shipped to Fort Worth, where they will be mated with the wings and forward fuselage for final assembly.
The F-35's first flight is planned for 2006.