Pics of the Day: The F-35’s Mid Section

In case you’ve ever wondered what an F-35 Joint Strike Fighter looks like while its still under construction, now you know. These pics show the mid-fuselage section of the 69th F-35 being prepped for delivery to Lockheed Martin from F-35-subcontractor Northrop Grumman.

Remember, Lockheed designed the jet and does all the final assembly, but Northrop and BAE Systems are the biggest of many subcontractors on the project, they both produce a serious amount of the airplane, with Northrop’s contribution to the actual fuselage shown in these pictures. Notice how sensitive parts of the new fuselage are all wrapped up in brown paper, like a new toy on Christmas wrapped by some crazy uncle.


  • Pat

    Does anyone know how many f-35s are planned?

    • Juuso

      They are planning to buy at least 2000 F-35’s.

      I’m suprised if they actually build more than 1000 F-35. If you look other stealth projects (F-22 and B-2) none of them have ever been produced in numbers originally planned. Ben Rich was thinking (Read he’s book) in the 70’s that USAF would buy hundreds of F-117’s, but that didn’t happen in reality. What are the reasons to believe that F-35 will not share this same fate?

      • EJ257

        The F117 was a crude, first attempt at a true stealth aircraft. Nice proof of concept but I don’t think the USAF really wanted a lot of them. Not sexy enough (just ask the A-10).

        By the time the B-2 came out it was the end of the Cold War. The need for a large fleet of radar evading, deep penetration, nuclear capable bombers evaporated. The development cost was sunk but without a large number of aircraft to spread that around, each one produced end up costing over $2 billion.

        The F-35 is suppose to replace the F-16, F-18, A-10, Harrier, and probably F117 as well. Not 1 for 1 but even at 3 to 1 that’s still a lot of frames. Unless someone wakes up one day and decides to cap F-35 production at 500 and get new build F-16 and F-18 to fill in the rest.

        • Jacob

          Hmm, well if what we need are more bomb trucks, then couldn’t UAVs and B-52s fill that role?

        • SMSgt Mac

          RE B2 The B-2 was conceived, created and built to be survivable in a high-threat environment while flying both the CONVENTIONAL and nuclear mission. You are spot on as to why the unit cost grew, except that it was the amortization of the development AND production capability over so few planes that created the artificial $2B (some idiots now claim $3B) unit cost. The proof in that was the firm-fixed price offer to build more at $650M/per plane years after the last B-2 was built.

        • P3_Super_Bee

          Air Farce hasn’t flown a F-117 for over 4 years…

      • Pat

        Thank you! This is some good backup info.

      • Kool Guy

        The F-35 will be replacing so many other aircraft in service now, i doubt that it will be cut short of order. Unless, by the 2020s we somehow have a 6th generation aircraft rolling out, then that will for sure change the amount of F-35 we buy. Other than that the Republicans in Congress would never allow a cut in the F-35.

    • RunningBear

      2300+ for US military (1700+ USAF)
      700+ for foreign military
      3000+ total

      • Pat

        Thank you! This is what I wanted to know.

        • William sing

          Prediction: final F35 figures for the USAF at 500 frames before the 6th gen arrives to supersede them.

    • xmilnav

      what the fuck are we seeing these pictures for….this is xzacilly what is wrong with this country…. ant nothing but a bunch of sell-outs

  • LtKitty

    Just like playing with Legos!

  • 4FingerOfBouron

    Not sensitive, trying to hold down on FOD

    • Guest A

      That’s where the maintenance panels and weapons bay doors will be installed later.

  • Riceball

    Seeing has Northrop-Grumman is a major sub-contractor and looks to be doing a big chunk of the work can we really be blaming Lockheed for everything that goes wrong? But I’m sure that the haters will still manage to spin it so that it’s still all Lockheed’s fault and that they’re in cahoots with Northrop to bilk the US taxpayer.

    • TMB

      The buck stops with Lockheed. They’re in charge of the program. If there’s blame to pass onto Northrop-Grumman, they haven’t spoken up yet.

    • Jeff

      Given the nature of it, you’d have to be very specific if you wanted to lay the blame on a subcontractor. Even then it would have to be a malicious effort by the subcontractor for them to be wholely responsible.

    • Chops

      LM is ultimately responsible for inspection and testing of the finished parts before assembly,while I think there is blame to be put on all parties you can’t help but wonder after the first 20 or 30 planes how the same problems with the frame cracking,tailhook too short on C model and all the other problems keep slipping through the inspections all the while the price goes up and the customers are starting to back away from the purchase.

    • SMSgt Mac

      If you had bothered to research the source of the photo, or if the author had provided a link to the press release you could rachet down the vitriol and give thy foul dispositiona little time off. Took less than a minute to find
      “To date, the company has delivered every center fuselage on time and continues to meet its cost and schedule commitments. In 2011, the company delivered 22 center fuselages and it will make its 100th delivery in December 2012.”
      BTW: Northrop Grumman probably makes more money/unit off building most of the F-18 (E/F/Gs now) for Boeing than off each F-35.

      • Jason

        SMSgt Mas is correct in his statement. There is also additional underlying meaning to that photo. That was the first unit delivered as a completed product of the “IAL” or Integrated Assembly Line which was launched in Palmdale in 2011 and is building them faster, better, cheaper than ever before and will be able to sustain higher levels of future production rate increases through more automated processes and robotics.

  • Marc

    Instead of thinking about cost of F-35, the delays and all the other hick-ups, it’s looking like job security for a lot of people. Those tax payers who’s companies have sub contracts, to produce components or other wise for the F-35, see years of job security.

    • tee

      For a Aircraft that doesn’t work as advertised. That would be Corporate Welfare with the US’s security at stake. Canada looks like they are going to want a Fly Off competition which will be interesting. The Eurofighter, Rafael, F-18 SH, F-15SE and the Gripen NG are all flying, shooting missiles, dropping bombs, doing high G maneuvers . You know things Fighter bombers are supposed to do. When exactly if the F-35 going to try to shoot a missile or drop a bomb, or even do a high angle dive, let alone a high G turn? This could get pretty embarrassing for the F-35 very quickly. Then watch the partner nations bail out of this failed program.

      • Yo Yo

        That would be funny if you were a reliable weapon expert, but you were not. So, one can only assume that haterz will continue to hate even if the F-35 has managed to do most of the above.

        With thousands of brilliant scientists. aerospace engineers, electronic experts, hundreds of diplomats and think tanks from 9 countries behind the JSF program, it is not hard to assume that they know something more than the little tee aka self-proclaimed expert on military aircraft.

        • John Moore

          I always figure when one turns to personal attacks

          a) either they lack the metal ability to produce a valid argument or

          b) there just too lazy.

          • Noha307

            I hate it when people lack “metal ability”. If you are gonna’ rock-out, you better be good at it.

            Seriously, though, this is one of the funniest things I have ever seen! (Not trying to hate, just too frickin’ ironic to ignore.)

          • Nathan

            That would be “They’re”, as opposed to “there”. Apparently you lack the mental ability to type in English.

      • Praetorian
        • tee

          That was March 30th, but not a word since, Hmmmm

          • Praetorian

            With the money Norway’s Goverment just put into makeing that video, I dont think 5 days is going to cut it for changing thier mind.

  • some guy

    The primary contractor is always held at fault for the transgressions of the sub-contractors. The primary contractor is resposnsible for any and all actions or failures, and are also allowed the primary glory , if any.

  • Lance

    Looks nice. For the military just make a universal C model for all. Save the program from the failure its faceing.

  • Guest

    Due to this concurrency rubbish aren’t all F-35s technically still under construction?

  • The F-35 program is still alive and well, sucking up billions of dollars on outdated technology.

  • 4FingerOfBourbon

    Well I have to applaud the theory of multiple contractors converging on a project in order to cut cost and provide the latest and greatest. It was a good try. However, I feel that competitive bidding and from sole source contractors may prove to be more financially responsible.

    • blight_

      This divide-and-conquer methodology is also partly to ensure that other companies remain intact, unlike the massive contractions that came about near the end of WW2 and near the end of the Cold War.

    • P3_Super_Bee

      This isn’t anything new…. You must be to the aviation world to not know this… Boeing was a sub contractor on the F-22. Been this way since at least the WWII days, when everyone was building everyone’s aircraft.

  • Dean J

    Check out those custom chrome wheels on the trailer! :)

  • alex

    just makes my day seeing this stuff.

  • tee

    Today from Canada and I quote from the headline “Canada has frozen the budget it had for buying F-35 fighter jets, and says it will restart its entire acquisition process after the country’s government spending watchdog reported the decision to buy Joint Strike Fighters was based on bad data from officials who deliberately downplayed the costs and risks.”

  • Michael Anderson

    Isn’t anyone concerned about security? How and why did this get posted on the internet? With China being the main player is ESPIONAGE, this causes me concern. I was active duty U S Army years ago, but I don’t think stuff like this needs to be posted on the internet

    • duuude

      The entire supply chain is already flooded with dubious made-in-China components.

  • Mike

    Absolutely nothing shown in the pics is of any value. Believe it or not, most large contractors have much better security than their government counterparts.


    The brown paper covers doors, vents, and openings. All in the name of FOD protection while in transit. The real goodies get installed much later.