Building Australia's Next Generation Fighters
Components of Australia’s first two F-35 Lightning II aircraft are traveling by robot today, making significant progress in the manufacturing process. Large, orange, shoebox-shaped robots navigate Lockheed Martin’s U.S. production facility in Marietta, Ga., with Australian F-35 components on board. These automated guided vehicles carry the centre wing assembly, the backbone of the F-35.
Lockheed Martin employees began working on Australia’s first two F-35s, known on the production floor as AU-1 and AU-2, in June and July 2012. The centre wing assemblies will visit another sophisticated tool, the auto-drill, before they are shipped to the F-35 final assembly facility in Fort Worth, Texas, later this year.
The centre wing assembly contains machined longerons produced by Lovitt Technologies Australia. Lovitt is one of more than 25 Australian-based companies to manufacture parts and components for not only Australia’s 5th Generation fighters, but for the worldwide fleet of F-35s.
In Fort Worth, teams are building the Australian wings that will be mated to the centre wing assembly. Once mated, the complete wing assembly joins with the forward, centre, and aft fuselages in the Electronic Mate and Alignment System (EMAS). After EMAS, F-35s move into final assembly where workers install the engine, integrate key avionics systems and put power to the aircraft. Once an F-35 rolls out of the factory, it is coated with stealth materials and fueled before arriving on the flight line for engine runs and first flight.
All of Australia’s Lightning IIs will be the F-35A conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL) variant. The first two Royal Australian Air Force aircraft are in what is known as Low Rate Initial Production Lot 6, which includes 31 F-35s for the U.S. and three F-35A jets for Italy.
In additional to Australian aircraft, F-35s for the U.K., the Netherlands and Italy are in production at Lockheed Martin facilities. Once delivered, initial international aircraft will support pilot and maintainer training at the F-35 Integrated Training Centre. Joint training supports a key tenant of the F-35 Lightning II – interoperability between allies. Global F-35 crews train together, setting the stage for coalition operations in the future.