The first F-35A for the RAAF is standing on its on wheels for the first time, a significant milestone for the jet as it moves down the production line of Lockheed Martin’s mile-long assembly plant in Fort Texas, Texas.
The first aircraft, dubbed AU-1 by Lockheed Martin and the future A35-001 with the RAAF, was lifted by an overhead crane from an EMAS – electronic mate and alignment systems – station where its forward and rear fuselage sections were joined to the wing-centre fuselage assembly, to final assembly, where its control surfaces are added and final systems and engine are installed.
AU-1 is due to roll out of the factory in July next year and, alongside sistership AU-2, initially will be based at Luke AFB, Arizona as part of the US Air Force’s F-35 training system being established there.
The December 13 craning of AU-1 from its EMAS station to final assembly was witnessed by a small group of Lockheed Martin and Defence officials, including Air Commodore Cath Roberts, Director General New Air Combat Capability, and Jeff Babione, Lockheed Martin’s vice president and deputy program manager of the F-35 program.
Air Commodore Roberts was already in Fort Worth for other F-35 business that happened to coincide with the “weight on wheels” milestone.