The first two F-35 Joint Strike Fighters destined for Australia has come off the production line at Lockheed Martin in Fort Worth, Texas.
The ABC visited Lockheed’s factory, describing it as relatively quiet and staffed mainly by “nerdy technicians” assembling the planes on a production line 1.6 km in length.
There are currently 80 JSF’s “in flow”, with production expected to reach an average of one plane completed per day by 2019.
Visitors had to remove all jewelry for fears that it might interfere with the delicate operation, which is conducted at a temperature kept at a steady 18 - 19 degrees Celsius.
Australia committed to purchase an extra 58 F-35s in April, at a cost of $12.4 billion, with the first ones expected to enter service in 2020.
The two that came off the production line yesterday were known as AU-1 and AU-2, with Senator Mathias Cormann, Australian Ambassador to the US Kim Beazley and Air Marshal Geoff Brown, the chief of the Air Force, in attendance.
“With the commitment and support of Lockheed Martin and Pratt and Whitney, a steady F-35 production ramp up, and a continuing favourable Australian dollar, I expect Australian industry do very well on the F-35 program over many years,” said Cormann in a statement.
“Some 30 Australian companies have been directly involved in the F-35 program to date, and more than $412 million in production orders have been won with only about 3 per cent of aircraft production completed to date.”
Image: ADF/Lockheed Martin