Yesterday’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter briefing turned into a celebration of the recent first flight of the F-35B STOVL version. The three customers for the new-generation jump jet (the U.S. Marine Corps, the U.K. and Italy) lined up to sing its praises. Test pilot Graham Tomlinson from BAE Systems was on hand to describe the maiden flight.
When Lockheed Martin chose a test pilot to take the F-35B short takeoff and vertical landing (STOVL) version through development and into the air, the company realized there is no substitute for experience. Therefore, when aircraft F-35BF-1 took to the skies over Texas last month, a 58-year-old British pilot was at the controls.
The first Lockheed Martin (LM) F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) has now been grounded for more than six months. But program officials hope to get the world’s largest combat aircraft program airborne again by the end of this month. “We have a very aggressive flight test schedule to get everything done by October 2012,” Bill Coutts, LM’s F-35 site director, told AIN at Fort Worth recently.
Here at the Paris Air Show yesterday, Stork and Northrop Grumman signed a framework contract worth $150 million for Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter airframe components. If the agreement translates into a firm order, Stork will produce 520 in-flight opening doors for all three types and 110 inner weapons bay doors for the STOVL version during the low-rate initial production phase.
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