PALMDALE, Calif., June 14, 2007 (PRIME NEWSWIRE) -- Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE:NOC) has delivered, more than two and one-half months ahead of schedule, the center fuselage for the first F-35 Lightning II static test aircraft, a non-flying, short take-off, vertical landing (STOVL) variant designated BG-1.

The fuselage, which was assembled at the company's Palmdale Manufacturing Center, was delivered May 7 to Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, the F-35 prime contractor. It will be mated with an aft fuselage, wings and a cockpit at Lockheed Martin's F-35 final assembly facility in Fort Worth, Texas to form the full-scale static test aircraft.

Structural load testing of the aircraft will help validate computer modeling being used to define the STOVL flight test program that will occur during the current F-35 system development and demonstration (SDD) phase.

"This delivery, which was 77 days early, demonstrates Northrop Grumman's commitment to helping its F-35 customer produce the most advanced, most formidable multi-role fighter in the world on cost and on schedule," said Janis Pamiljans, vice president of tactical systems and F-35 program manager for Northrop Grumman's Integrated Systems sector. "By streamlining our engineering and production processes during the SDD phase, we're driving down program risks and laying the foundation for a successful and affordable low-rate initial production program."

The F-35 Lightning II is a stealthy, supersonic multi-role fighter designed to replace a wide range of aging fighter and strike aircraft. It is being produced in three variants -- conventional take-off and landing (CTOL); STOVL and a carrier variant (CV) -- to meet the diverse performance needs of the U.S. Air Force, the U.S. Marine Corps, the U.S. Navy and allied defense forces worldwide. The three variants use a high degree of commonality to meet strict affordability requirements.

Northrop Grumman's current SDD work share includes producing 21 center fuselages: 15 for flight test aircraft and six for static test aircraft, two for each of three variants. Each static test article delivery will support the final assembly and flight test programs for the corresponding variant.

The purpose of the static test program is to demonstrate that F-35 airframes, as designed, can successfully endure the structural stresses likely to be experienced over an aircraft's lifetime. The test program includes both "worst case" testing and repetitive life cycle testing.

As a principal member of the Lockheed Martin-led F-35 global industry team, Northrop Grumman plays a critical role in the development and production of the weapons system. The company's contributions include: producing and integrating a major section of aircraft's structure; producing key radar subsystems; producing key avionics and communications subsystems; developing mission systems and mission-planning software; developing pilot and maintenance training systems; and developing logistic support hardware and software. The team also includes BAE Systems.

Northrop Grumman Corporation is a $30 billion global defense and technology company whose 122,000 employees provide innovative systems, products, and solutions in information and services, electronics, aerospace and shipbuilding to government and commercial customers worldwide.

  CONTACT:  Brooks McKinney, APR
          Northrop Grumman Integrated Systems
          (310) 331-6610 office
          (310) 864-3785 cell