F-35A deploys to Edwards, Alenia will build wings

The fighter plane will undergo extended flight testing at Edwards. The Alenia contract is worth $15 million.

The Lockheed Martin (Bethesda, Md.) F-35A successfully flew from Fort Worth, Texas, to Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., on Oct. 1 to begin expanded flight testing and initiate test activities at Edwards. The nonstop, 1,000 nautical mile trip was the aircraft’s first long-range, cross-country flight. According to F-35 test pilot Jeff Knowles, the composites-intensive aircraft performed exactly as expected and successfully completed in-flight refueling. During the F-35’s deployment to Edwards, the flight test team will conduct ground and flight test activities for propulsion, aerial refueling and logistical support and will hold training exercises for the test team.

All 19 of the F-35 developmental test aircraft for the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program are currently in production and will be completed by the end of 2009. Additionally, production has begun on the first four low-rate initial production (LRIP) aircraft, says Lockheed Martin. The company is developing the F-35 with its principal industrial partners, Northrop Grumman (Reston, Va.) and BAE Systems (Brea, Calif.). The F-35 Lightning II is a supersonic, multirole, 5th Generation stealth fighter with three variants derived from a common design. It uses the same sustainment infrastructure worldwide to replace at least 13 types of aircraft for 11 nations, reportedly making the Lightning II the most cost-effective fighter program in history.

Lockheed Martin and Alenia Aeronautica (Rome, Italy) announced on Sept. 25 that they have signed a contract for initial production of F-35 wings at a total value of more than $15 million/€10.5 million. The contract is the first of a series that will support Alenia’s long-term activities within the JSF program, according to the memorandum of understanding that was signed by the two companies in 2006. Under the terms of the agreement, Alenia is slated to produce more than 1,200 wings for the F-35 aircraft for the nine-partner program made up of Italy, U.S., U.K., The Netherlands, Turkey, Australia, Canada, Denmark and Norway. The F-35 wing assembly comprises a metal internal structure covered by carbon fiber composite skins, all of which are assembled concurrently with electrical and hydraulic systems. Alenia’s production for the JSF program will be carried out in Italy between 2009 and 2033, involving several of the company’s production centers.