Japan Begins Assembling First F-35A at Nagoya FACO
AeroBD | The AERO news Company…FEB 16, 2016, TOKYO : Japan’s first indigenously made F-35A has begun the manufacturing process on the country’s final assembly and checkout line in Nagoya. The aircraft, dubbed AX-5, began assembly Dec. 15 when its wings, fuselage and tails were joined there. The aircraft is slated for introduction into the Japanese Air Self Defense force in 2017.
The first four Japanese F-35As are in various stages of assembly on Lockheed Martin’s main F-35 final assembly line in Fort Worth. The first, AX-1, is slated for delivery next year. Japan plans to buy 42 aircraft, but Tokyo is not a development partner. Japan, Israel and South Korea are the program’s three foreign sales customers so far that did not contribute to the development project. The $400 billion program — including life cycle cost for the U.S. — includes eight foreign allies: the U.K., Italy, the Netherlands, Australia, Turkey, Denmark, Canada and Norway.
Japan, however, invested in the FACO at Nagoya in part to provide high-tech jobs to its aerospace industry. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries is the industrial partner in establishing the facility. Unlike Italy’s FACO at Cameria Air Base in Northern Italy, Japan lacked a large space for the plant. Thus, engineers decided to create what F-35 Program Executive Officer USAF Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan calls a “vertical FACO” at Nagoya, including elevators to shuttle structures among the work stations. Ultimately, however, the design is intended to mimic closely the F-35 FACO at Fort Worth.
A total of 38 F-35s will be assembled there for Japan. But the facility was also selected to be the program’s maintenance, repair and overhaul and upgrade site for heavy airframe work. So it will eventually join a network of facilities globally used to maintain the F-35s potentially for a variety of militaries for decades to come. Lockheed and Mitsubishi are working to complete the Nagoya facility even as AX-5 begins its journey down the production line.
Italy, which spent about $1 billion on its FACO with Alenia as the industrial lead, delivered its first Italian F-35A from Cameri Dec. 3. More than 150 F-35s have been delivered to customers to date.