October 10, 2013 (by Laurie Quincy) - Lockheed Martin and the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) celebrated the beginnings of the first F-35 Lightning II for Australia on October 8th. The aircraft, designated as AU-1, officially began the mate process, where major components of the aircraft are joined together to form the aircraftâ€™s structure.
Australia’s first F-35 Lightning II in the factory in Fort Worth. [Lockheed Martin photo by Beth Groom]
AU-1 will then make its way down the assembly line and roll out of the factory for delivery to the RAAF in the summer of 2014.
Jeff Babione, Lockheed Martin Vice President and Deputy Program Manager for F-35, highlighted the ongoing partnership between Lockheed Martin and Australia. â€śToday marks a new beginning for tactical aviation for Australia,â€ť said Babione. â€śLockheed Martin is proud of our long and storied relationship with Australian aviation, and now, the F-35 will ensure that the relationship with the RAAF and Australian Industry remains strong for decades to come.â€ť
The global supply chain for the F-35 currently has 14 Australian companies under contract and building parts for the F-35. Australian industry is expected to gain up to $6.3 billion USD in industry opportunities over the life of the F-35 program. Every F-35 built will have some Australian parts and components.
The occasion also marked a longstanding history between Lockheed Martin and Australiaâ€™s Defence Forces, beginning with the Lockheed Vega, F-111 and continuing with the F-35. Australiaâ€™s first two F-35s, now in production, will be delivered to the RAAF next year.