Following an intense four-year competition, the U.S. Department of Defense on 26 October 2001, named the Lockheed Martin lead Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) team as the winner of the contract to develop the F-35 Lightning II. The F-35 team immediately entered the program’s 10-year System Development and Demonstration (SDD) phase.
The SDD period involves the development and testing of the entire aircraft system, including its manufacture. During SDD, the team will build a total of 22 test aircraft. Fourteen will undergo flight-testing, seven will be used for non-airborne test activities, and one will be used to evaluate the F-35’s radar signature.
Nine nations are partnering in the F-35’s SDD phase: The United States, United Kingdom, Italy, the Netherlands, Turkey, Canada, Denmark, Norway and Australia. Partnership in SDD entitles those countries to bid for work on a best value basis, and participate in the aircraft’s development. Additionally, Israel and Singapore have agreed to join the program as a Security Cooperation Participants.
Lockheed Martin is the F-35 prime contractor, while Northrop Grumman and BAE Systems are principal partners in the project.
Final assembly of the F-35 takes place at Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company in Fort Worth, Texas. Northrop Grumman Corporation in Palmdale and El Segundo, California will manufacture the center-fuselage, and the aft fuselage and tails will be manufactured by BAE Systems in Samlesbury, England. Lockheed Martin in Fort Worth will manufacture the forward fuselage and wings.
Flight-testing will be conducted at Fort Worth, Edwards Air Force Base, and Naval Air Station Patuxent River. Additionally, the STOVL and CV variants will undergo sea trials aboard American, British and Italian aircraft carriers.