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Lockheed Martin JSF X-35 Moves to Factory Floor, Achieves Major Assembly Milestone



FORT WORTH, Texas --- The Lockheed Martin team's Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) X-35A concept demonstrator aircraft moved from assembly tooling to the factory floor at Lockheed Martin Skunk Works in Palmdale, Calif., Sept. 18, achieving a major assembly milestone.
The move signals the completion of the major assembly of the structure, aircraft systems and avionics installations. The final assembly activities will proceed and include installations of control surfaces, actuated doors and the landing gear. System checkouts on the X-35A are now under way, leading to engine installation and engine ground runs early next year.
"Our team's use of lean thinking approaches in design and manufacturing have paid off in increased quality and substantially reduced cost when compared to conventional methods,'' said Gary Ervin, X-35 program manager at Lockheed Martin Skunk Works. "Parts and subsystems have fit together near flawlessly with very little rework required. Several methods used on X-35 -- such as solid modeling, virtual prototyping tools, large integrated self- aligning structures, laser-guided optical tooling and part alignment, assembly simulation and flexible tooling -- have formed some of the building blocks for eventual production of the JSF.''
As manufacturing of the X-35 demonstrators continues at the Skunk Works, the Lockheed Martin JSF team is pioneering a number of lean projects, including airframe affordability demonstrations, which benchmark innovative manufacturing approaches against more traditional means. Results and lessons learned from these efforts will be applied to full-scale production, ensuring affordability of the JSF.
"The lessons learned in design and assembly of the two concept demonstrator aircraft, plus the lean manufacturing demonstrations being performed in parallel by each of our team members in the United States and Europe, will ensure we have an affordable, low-risk design going into Engineering and Manufacturing Development,'' said Frank J. Cappuccio, vice president and program manager of the Lockheed Martin JSF team.
Extensive system testing has been accomplished on the X-35A, including power-on testing of the main electrical distribution system, cockpit avionics displays, and vehicle management computers that provide the flight control capability and other flight critical software functions. Software development testing is also on track for flight test next year, with final verification testing now under way.
The X-35A initially will be used to demonstrate engine compatibility and flying qualities for the conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL) version of the JSF for the U.S. Air Force. The aircraft will then be reconfigured to the X-35B variant with installation of the shaft-driven lift fan for demonstration of performance and flying qualities of the short takeoff and vertical landing (STOVL) mode for the U.S. Marine Corps and the United Kingdom's Royal Navy and Royal Air Force. The lift fan inlet and engine auxiliary inlet are already in place on the X-35A, which will facilitate rapid conversion to the X-35B STOVL configuration.
The second demonstrator aircraft, the X-35C for the U.S. Navy, is also in the assembly phase. Installation of the wing carry-through and forward fuselage segments in the assembly tool are complete. System installations and final mate will occur in October, and the X-35C will join the X-35A in system check-out tests before year-end. The X-35C is characterized by larger wing and tail surfaces than the X-35A to provide superior flying qualities in slow- speed flight associated with Navy shipboard operations.
Lockheed Martin received one of two JSF Concept Demonstration contracts awarded by the Department of Defense in November 1996. The Lockheed Martin JSF team includes Northrop Grumman and British Aerospace.
Flight evaluation of the demonstrator aircraft is scheduled to take place in 2000, with government selection of a single contractor for Engineering and Manufacturing Development set for 2001.

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Lockheed Martin JSF X-35 Moves to Factory Floor, Achieves Major Assembly Milestone