Lockheed Martin begins the production of the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF)’s first F-35 Lightning II yesterday.
The aircraft, designated as AU-1, officially began the mate process, where major components of the aircraft are joined together to form the aircraft's structure. 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. "Today marks a new beginning for tactical aviation for Australia," said Babione. "Lockheed 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."
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 Australia's Defence Forces, beginning with the Lockheed Vega, F-111 and continuing with the F-35. Australia's first two F-35s, now in production, will be delivered to the RAAF next year.
The F-35 Lightning II is a 5th generation fighter, combining advanced stealth with fighter speed and agility, advanced mission systems, fully fused sensor information, network-enabled operations and cutting-edge sustainment. Three distinct variants of the F-35 will replace the A-10 and F-16 for the U.S. Air Force, the F/A-18 for the U.S. Navy, the F/A-18 and AV-8B Harrier for the U.S. Marine Corps, and a variety of fighters for at least 10 other countries.