Lockheed Martin’s (Bethesda, Md.) first optimized conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL) F-35 Lightning II fighter made its inaugural flight on Nov. 14, 2009, the fourth F-35 to begin flight operations. The aircraft joins two F-35B short takeoff/vertical landing variants currently in flight testing.
“The initial flight of the first optimized CTOL aircraft represents a significant achievement for the program and sets the stage for what’s promising to be a successful flight-test program,” said Maj. Gen. C.D. Moore, deputy program executive officer for the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) Program Office. The plane was built on the same production line as the 31 Low Rate Initial Production aircraft now in assembly. Doug Pearson, Lockheed Martin vice president for F-35 test and verification, noted that “AF-1 is the first F-35 to roll off our moving assembly line at the maximum production speed of 50 inches [or 1,270 mm] per hour during a trial high-speed assembly sequence. The moving assembly line, designed to improve production quality and speed, is the first ever for a modern fighter.”
Editor PickSkinning the F-35 fighter
Fasteneing the all-composites skin on the Lightning II requires machining and drilling technology that is optimized for cost-efficiency.