Australia acquires JSF's conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL) variant (photo : Australian Aviation)
AUSTRALIA'S very first Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) is starting to come together.
The aircraft, named AU-1, exists only as a series of sub-assemblies now being manufactured at Lockheed Martin facilities around the United States.
The largest, a complex centre wing section, bears no resemblance to a finished aircraft.
Lockheed Martin's JSF program head Tom Burbage said it was being made in Lockheed Martin's facility in Marietta, Georgia.
"Then it will come to Fort Worth and be made into a full wing. The inlets for the centre body are starting right about now," he told journalists at a media briefing.
"Then we will start assembling the centre body. The wing starts first, and then the centre starts and the aft starts and then they all come into Fort Worth."
In another development, the first Australian-made part for the first Australian JSF will be officially unveiled at a ceremony at Melbourne engineering firm Lovitt Technologies on Friday.
The company has been making JSF parts for five years, but this part, an aluminium bracket, is destined for AU-1's centre wing section.
"It is a small part, but it is pretty complicated in terms of stresses," Mr Burbage said.
The event will be attended by Mr Burbage, Defence Materiel Minister Jason Clare and Air Vice Marshal Kym Osley, head of defence's new air combat capability program.
Australia is considering acquiring up to 100 JSF aircraft to be the nation's principal combat aircraft out to mid-century.
But so far the government is firmly committed to just two, with a decision on the next tranche of 12 deferred for about two years.
JSF has been regularly criticised as likely to cost too much, be late and unable to deliver the promised capability.
Mr Burbage said the test program was making good progress on fixing some problems, including making the helmet-mounted display work properly at night using the aircraft's sensors.
He said decisions by Japan and Israel to acquire JSFs showed their confidence in the program.
JSF's conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL) variant, which Australia is acquiring, is well ahead of its planned test schedule and is now almost 50 per cent of the way through its flight testing.