Northrop Grumman Corp. (Palmdale, Calif., USA) reported on June 30 that it has delivered to prime contractor Lockheed Martin Co. (Fort Worth, Texas, USA) the first center fuselage of the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter for the Royal Netherlands Air Force.
Northrop Grumman completed the center fuselage — the core composite and metal structure around which the F-35 aircraft is built — at the company's manufacturing center in Palmdale, Calif. The unit now will travel to Lockheed Martin in Ft. Worth, Texas, where it will be integrated into an F-35A, a conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL) variant of the aircraft, for the Royal Netherlands Air Force.
Northrop Grumman is responsible for the design and production of center fuselages for all three variants of F-35 aircraft: CTOL, short takeoff, vertical landing (STOVL) and a carrier variant. This is the second such structure Northrop Grumman has constructed for an international customer. In December, the company delivered a STOVL variant for the United Kingdom.
"The completion of our second center fuselage for another international customer is evidence that the F-35 program is growing and maturing," says Duke Dufresne, sector vice president and general manager of the Strike and Surveillance Systems Division of Northrop Grumman's Aerospace Systems sector. "It's an important milestone and a sign of continued progress on the program."
To date, Northrop Grumman has delivered 48 center fuselages, all on schedule. Final assembly of all F-35 jets is performed by Lockheed Martin, a process that includes mating the center fuselage to an aft fuselage produced by BAE systems; and the forward fuselage, cockpit and wings produced by Lockheed Martin.