First F-35A rolls off Japanese production line
29 September 2016 – The first F-35A for Japan was rolled out from Lockheed Martin’s production line on September 23. The aircraft had already made its maiden flight, one month ago. In other Lightning II news, there was more discussion of block buys at the AFA Convention last week, plus the possibility of a new engine. The U.S. Navy has conducted a test of the F-35’s networking capabilities in a sensor-to-shooter test.
At the rollout ceremony, Gen. Yoshiyuki Sugiyama, chief of the Japan Air Self Defence Force (JASDF), described the F-35 as “a game changer” that would be integrated with current JASDF assets. The country’s state minister for defense, Kenji Wakamiya, noted that Japan had been chosen as the location for the Asia-Pacific F-35 regional depot. Japan is buying 42 F-35As, with the first four coming off the Fort Worth line, and the remainder to be built by Mitsubishi at Nagoya.
F-35 program director Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan told the AFA Convention that the partner nations (including the U.S.) that had agreed to a block buy for production lots 12, 13 and 14 would save at least $2 billion collectively. Approximately 450 jets will be produced over the three years of the proposed contract. Bogdan also said that new engine technology would be introduced to the F-35 “in the mid 2020s.” But he left open whether this would be via improvements to the stealth fighter’s current P&W F135 engine, or via the Adaptive Engine Transition Program (AETP).
The sensor-to-shooter test involved an unmodified U.S. Marine Corps F-35B. It acted as an elevated sensor to detect an over-the-horizon airborne threat to friendly warships, and used its Multifunction Advanced Data Link (MADL) to inform a ground station that was connected to a test launch site for the U.S. Navy’s Aegis air defense system on the White Sands Missile Range. The site launched a Standard 6 missile that successfully engaged the threat. A Navy program manager said that the test “successfully closed the fire control loop as well as merged anti-surface and anti-air weapons into a single kill web that shares common sensors, links and weapons.”
In Denmark, Boeing is officially disputing that country’s selection of the F-35 last May. “We believe the evaluation was fundamentally flawed, and inaccurately assessed the cost and capability of the F/A-18 Super Hornet,” the company said.