Airbus Military has begun final assembly of the first A400M transport aircraft intended for a customer, in this case the French air force, announced the company. France is expected to receive this airframe by early 2013, the first of 50 destined for its air arm. Final assembly of the A400M occurs in Seville, Spain. The fuselage for this aircraft, which is designated MSN7, is already in Seville, along with its wings and nose, according to Airbus. Arrival of the horizontal and vertical tailplanes was pending. Eight A400Ms are already in different stages of production, according to Airbus. Overall, there are 174 A400Ms currently on order, including 170 for the seven initial launch customers (Belgium, Britain, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Spain, and Turkey) and four for Malaysia. (See also A400M Contract Finalized.)
The F-35 Joint Program Office has officially announced plans to issue multiple sole-source contracts to Pratt & Whitney to upgrade the fighter’s F135 engine—a widely expected move after Pentagon officials indicated they would do so earlier this year instead of developing an entirely new engine.