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F-35 Lightning II News

Center fuselage for F-35 Ground Test Aircraft delivered

June 14, 2007 (by Asif Shamim) - Northrop Grumman delivered the centre fuselage section for the first F-35 Lightning II short take-off, vertical landing (STOVL) variant static test aircraft, more than two & half months ahead of schedule.

The centre fuselage section for the first F-35 Lightning II short take-off, vertical landing (STOVL) variant static test aircraft. [Photo by Northrop Grumman]

The fuselage was assembled at the companies Palmdale Manufacturing Center, was delivered May 7 to Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, the F-35 prime contractor. It will be mated with the aft fuselage, wings and a cockpit at Lockheed Martin's F-35 final assembly facility in Fort Worth, Texas to form the full-scale static test aircraft.

The purpose of the static test program is to demonstrate that F-35 airframes, as designed, can successfully endure the structural stresses likely to be experienced over an aircraft's lifetime. The test program includes both "worst case" testing and repetitive life cycle testing.

"This delivery, which was 77 days early, demonstrates Northrop Grumman's commitment to helping its F-35 customer produce the most advanced, most formidable multi-role fighter in the world on cost and on schedule," said Janis Pamiljans, vice president of tactical systems and F-35 program manager for Northrop Grumman's Integrated Systems sector.

Structural load tests will be carried out on the airframe and will help validate computer modeling being done on the STOVL flight test program. This is occurring during the current F-35 System Development and Demonstration (SDD) phase.

Pamilijans went onto say "By streamlining our engineering and production processes during the SDD phase, we're driving down program risks and laying the foundation for a successful and affordable low-rate initial production program."

Northrop Grummans current SDD work includes the production of 21 center fuselages, 15 of which are for flight test aircraft and six for static test aircraft, two for each of three variants.

Additional images:

Following a vertical take off, the X-35B holds a stationary position 25 feet above the ground at Lockheeds Palmsdale plant on June 24th 2001. Pilot Simon Hargreaves described the flight as a stunning success. [LMTAS photo]