ANKARA, Turkey, Dec. 12 (UPI) -- The first Turkish-made center fuselage for the F-35 Lightning II has been delivered to Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman by Turkish Aerospace Industries.
TAI said the center fuselage was delivered Wednesday at a ceremony at its manufacturing facility in Ankara and will be installed onto the aircraft by Lockheed in Texas.
"Delivery of the first F-35 center fuselage is a major step by TAI to demonstrate its commitment to adding value to the (F-35) program," said Muharrem Dortkasli, president and chief executive officer of TAI. "TAI invested in brand new, state-of-the-art facilities, machinery, equipment and tooling to manufacture the most advanced and complex assembly of the F-35, fifth-generation fighter aircraft.
"It is now time to begin delivering world-class TAI center fuselages to the final production line at an increasing rate every year."
TAI is producing center fuselages for the F-35 as a sub-contractor to Northrop Grumman. It also produces center fuselage metallic assemblies for the F-35A, selected composite components for all F-35 variants, composite air inlet ducts for F-35A, and air-to-ground alternate mission pylons for all F-35 variants.
It said once the F-35 program reaches full rate production, it will ship three center fuselages a month to assembly lines in the United States and Italy.
"This is a great achievement for the Northrop Grumman-TAI team," said Brian Chappel, vice president of the F-35 program at Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems. "We worked hand-in-hand to manufacture the first center fuselage, following established processes implemented by Northrop Grumman on our own assembly line in California. Together, we are driving down costs and raising efficiencies to help the F-35 program meet its affordability goals."