Northrop Grumman recently announced it has completed the center fuselage for the first F-35 Lightning II aircraft to be assembled in Japan’s F-35 Final Assembly and Checkout (FACO) facility in Nagoya, Japan. According to Northrop Grumman, the center fuselage, which was made with composites and will be known as AX-5, will be integrated into an F-35A conventional takeoff and landing variant.

“Today’s event marks another significant step toward helping the Department of Defense produce a fifth-generation, multirole fighter that can meet the common air combat requirements of the U.S. and its allies,” said Brian Chappel, Vice President and F-35 program manager at Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems. “Using our Integrated Assembly Line, we’re continuing to increase the affordability and quality of the F-35 center fuselage, while steadily increasing our production rate. Our success is helping the F-35 industry team meet the operational need dates of our international customers.”

According to multiple reports, the center fuselage is a core structure of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Northrop Grumman designed and produced the center fuselage for all three F-35 variants. The AX-5 center fuselage is one of 42 center fuselages that Northrop Grumman will produce for Japan.

Northrop Grumman notes Mitsubishi Heavy Industries will be tasked with the final assembly and checkout of the Japanese F-35As. The process includes combining the center fuselage with the forward fuselage/cockpit and wings produced by Lockheed Martin and the aft fuselage produced by BAE Systems.

Structural composites in the F-35 are 35 percent of the airframe weight. The majority of these are bismaleimide (BMI) and composite epoxy material. According to Flightglobal, the F-35 is the first mass produced aircraft to include structural nanocomposites such as carbon nanotube reinforced epoxy.

To learn more about the F-35, visit