Making Weight

Lockheed Martin rolled out the first weight-optimized F-35A test aircraft from its assembly plant at Fort Worth, Tex., on Dec. 19, the company said in a release. The new F-35A, designated AF-1, is “at its core, the same aircraft that will enter operational service with the Air Force and international customers,” said Dan Crowley, Lockheed’s F-35 program general manager. Unlike AA-1, the first F-35A test aircraft, AF-1 is structurally identical to the F-35s that will enter Air Force service beginning in 2010. While AA-1 has a production-representative external shape and internal systems, its internal structure was designed before a 2004 weight-savings initiative that resulted in structural revisions to all three variants of the F-35. AF-1 also incorporates evolutionary improvements and updates that have resulted from AA-1 flight tests to date, said Tom Burbage, Lockheed’s general manager of F-35 program integration. AA-1 has completed 69 flights, according to the company. AF-1 is also significant since it was the first F-35 built at the full-rate production pace of 50 inches per hour on Lockheed’s moving assembly line, the company said. The rollout of AF-1 came two days after the completion of AG-1, a full-scale non-flying, static F-35A test article that will be used in ground tests