Northrop Grumman rolls out first STOVL F-35 fuselage
By Guy Norris
The first Northrop Grumman-built centre fuselage for the F-35B short
take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) version is due to arrive at Lockheed
Martin's Fort Worth final assembly line on 15 January.
The unit, weighing 1,770kg (3,900lb) and dubbed BF-1, is the first "optimised"
centre fuselage to be delivered after the redesign that cut the F-35's weight by 1,360kg.
Northrop Grumman, which has begun assembling the first fuselage section for
CF-1, the first F-35C carrier version (CV) for the US Navy, has 10 airframes
"in flow" for the system design and development phase at its Palmdale,
SDD will eventually encompass 14 production-representative flight-test
aircraft - five conventional take-off and landing (CTOL), four STOVL and
four CV - that are planned to fly by mid-2009. Six more airframes are also
being manufactured for static and fatigue tests.
Under the latest low-rate initial production plans, Northrop Grumman plans to deliver a further six units to Lockheed Martin in 2007 where 11 aircraft are planned for final
assembly through the year. This includes the first weight-optimised CTOL
airframe, AF-1, due for delivery to the Texas production line around September 2007.
"We're moving towards an integrated assembly line which will eventually
reach a rate of one centre fuselage a day," says Northrop Grumman F-35
deputy programme manager Randy Secor. Full rate could be reached over the
2012 to 2014 period depending on how funding matches up to current
production plans, he adds.
These call for fuselage section output to rise to 14 a month by 2014 and up to 22 a month by 2016. Although both milestones for BF-1 and CF-1 were originally planned for November, Secor says the programme remains ahead of schedule. The delay to BF-1 was caused by "36 changes in wire harnessing" which were introduced late on in the design after lessons learned from development of AA-1, the first flying F-35.
And the reality is that planes always grow during development and it's going to regain most of that weight and LM will be right back at square one inside 5 years…
So buy the Super Bug like the Aussies (might) and be done with it.
Informed word is that we may split the buy and get 90 F-35C's with the balance of F-35B's
Not a bad decision.
You guys should buy more of the F-35C's and wait till your new carrier is almost operational before you buy the B's. Unless you really want a replacement for the Harrier now.
That seems to be the plan… the F-35C will be in service @ 5 years before the F-35B.