The F-35A Lands at Eglin: What Does That Say About the Current State of Production?

07/26/2011: To get a sense of what the AF-9 and AF-8 F-35s landing at Eglin this month represent in terms of the production process, Second Line of Defense interviewed Dr. Kinard, Deputy F-35 Fighter Production System.  Earlier we interviewed Kinard with regard to the approach to wing production on the F-35.http://www.sldinfo.com/?p=9577

Photo Credit: Lockheed Martin

SLD: When folks see the AF-9 and AF-8 land at Eglin, they are not looking at a prototype aircraft?

Kinard: These are production aircraft.  The AF-9 is the second LRIP aircraft. We expect to deliver AF-10, 11, 12 and 13 shortly.  This will allow us to catch up with our scheduled delivery commitments.  The next six aircraft we will deliver will be the STOVLs, namely BF-6, 7,8,9,10 and 11.  We are currently experiencing no significant build problems; we have some issues with systems maturity, but we’re real close to being there on deliveries.

SLD: So the build process is on track?

Kinard: Yes, Building and delivering are different processes however.  From a build point of view, we’ve lost only six days to the revised production schedule since August of last year. When you get to delivery, that’s a little bit different issue because the aircraft’s built, but we’re waiting on qualifications, or we’re waiting on flight clearances and things like that.The STOVL issues have more to do with flight clearances on the aircraft and systems/software maturity and qualifications than they do with the build process.

SLD: When the AF-9 touched down at Eglin, what did it mean to you?

Kinard: It meant one of many to come.  My perspective is getting the first one delivered to training is a huge deal.   But we have aircraft on the floor right now with signs indicating Yuma and Nellis. We’re starting to look at the emergence of the first operational squadrons; Yuma for the STOVLS and Nellis for the CTOLS and that’s a huge deal too. Getting all the trainers out there is step one; getting the operational squadrons out there is step two.  And those aircraft are in work.

SLD: If I were down there looking at the line, what would I see?

Kinard: You would see 16 aircraft in mate and final assembly.  There are five aircraft in mate with 11 aircraft in final assembly.  There are additionally 10 aircraft on the flight line.  And another 21 aircraft are in component assembly in wing through forward fuselage areas. The assembly line is maturing and we are in production.

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