And On to the International JSF

In an Oct. 30 release, Northrop Grumman said it had begun producing the center fuselage for the first international F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter, an F-35B short takeoff/vertical landing model for Britain. The assembly process began Oct. 26 at the company’s Palmdale, Calif., production facility when employees loaded an all-composite air inlet duct into a special tooling structure called a jig, the first of some 18 major steps toward assembling the center fuselage. Mark Tucker, vice president and F-35 program manager for Northrop’s Aerospace Systems sector, said that the company is using a “disciplined approach” to manage costs and engineering changes and thereby “continuing to reduce program risks.” Work on the British fuselage started three days earlier than planned. Final assembly of the aircraft takes place at prime contractor Lockheed Martin’s Fort Worth, Tex., facility.