TOKYO -- Mitsubishi Heavy Industries has begun final assembly and checkout on the Lockheed Martin F-35A stealth fighter jet, expecting to work on two of the aircraft by the end of fiscal 2017 and 16 more by the end of fiscal 2020.
The F-35 is the most advanced U.S. fighter yet, developed as an international collaboration among nine countries. Japan's Ministry of Defense intends to procure 42 fighters. Mitsubishi Heavy will build 38 for Lockheed Martin at its Komaki Minami plant in Aichi Prefecture.
Advanced avionics aid maneuverability in dogfights, and a stealthy design hides the plane from radar. Mitsubishi Heavy will weld the fuselage, tail and other components together and attach the engines, landing gear and other parts using proprietary technologies that help minimize the fighter's radar cross-section.
The Japanese company will also test the aircraft's stealth against radar.
The experience with materials technologies and specialty processing that Mitsubishi Heavy is gaining through its F-35 work can be put to practical use on the next-generation stealth fighter that Japan itself is developing.