Air Force Accepts First Production F-35A

The Air Force has accepted its first F-35A production aircraft from prime contractor Lockheed Martin. It’s the first of the 1,763 state-of-the-art stealthy F-35As that the Air Force plans to buy to form the core of its fifth generation fighter force of the future, replacing legacy F-16s and A-10s. This first production airframe, AF-7, is actually the second production-version F-35A in numerical sequence to roll off of Lockheed’s assembly line in Fort Worth, Tex. AF-6 was the first, but AF-7 was the first one to complete acceptance testing and be delivered on May 5, Lockheed spokeswoman Laurie Quincy told the Daily Report. “AF-6 is close behind” in completing the acceptance process, she noted. Lockheed’s industry team built AF-6 and AF-7 as part of Lot 1 F-35 low-rate initial production. Both aircraft are slated to spend time at Edwards AFB, Calif., supporting F-35 flight testing before they head to Eglin AFB, Fla., to be part of the joint F-35 schoolhouse there. Meanwhile, AF-8, the first F-35A built under Lot 2 LRIP, made its maiden flight last week. It will be the first F-35 production aircraft to go directly to Eglin. (See also Lockheed AF-7 release, AF-8 release, and F-35 flight test update.)