Lockheed Martin (Fort Worth, TX, US) reported on May 12 that an F-35A Lightning II aircraft, known as AF-73, rolled out of Lockheed Martin’s Aircraft Final Finishes facility on April 29. The jet also has the distinction of possessing the first set of vertical tails manufactured by the Australian company Marand.
The completion of the final finishes phase for AF-73 is an important production milestone for Marand, BAE Systems and Australia, demonstrating the significant industrial benefits the F-35 program brings to the growing Australian aerospace industry. The work on the F-35 vertical tails is contracted to Marand by BAE Systems. This is one of the largest manufacturing projects for the Australian F-35 program, with 722 ship sets planned.
AF-73 will undergo a series of tests and engine runs prior to its first flight scheduled for late May. The aircraft will join the F-35 fleet later this year at Nellis Air Force Base, NV, US. The F-35 Lightning II aircraft will provide the Royal Australian Air Force with a transformational 5th generation fighter capability and provides significant benefits to the Australian aerospace industry, with more than $413 million (USD) already contracted.