Make That Four

Lockheed Martin has just completed assembly of the fourth F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter, an F-35B short takeoff and vertical landing variant, according to an Aug. 18 company release. Dan Crowley, Lockheed’s executive vice president and F-35 general manager, said the accomplishment “shows an emerging rhythm in our production line.” He added that it would be just a few days before the Fort Worth production facility has the fuselage for the first F-35C carrier variant, putting all three variants in final assembly. The line already had produced a STOVL aircraft, which first flew in June, and the first F-35A conventional takeoff and landing model, which has flown 45 times, and according to the release. Crowley declared that assembly quality since the very first JSF to come off the line “has been unprecedented, and each successive aircraft is measurably better than the one that proceeded it.” The newly completed F-35B is on the company flight line for ground tests before taking its first flight in early 2009.