The first F-35B Lightning II joint strike fighter (JSF) aircraft is set to undergo laser peening modifications at the US Fleet Readiness Center East (FRCE).
The US Marine Corps (USMC) aircraft has been inducted and the new project will see the facility operate at full capacity for several years.
The F-35 Lightning II aircraft is a stealthy, supersonic multirole fighter developed by Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company for the US Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps and programme partners from Nato and the US allies.
FRCE commanding officer captain Mark Nieto said: “We’re excited to get this programme underway at Fleet Readiness Center East and work toward providing the Marine Corps with F-35B aircraft capable of meeting their full life limit.
“This laser peening facility is a strategic asset that will allow us to provide support for the F-35B that’s not available anywhere else in the world.”
The laser peening process will strengthen the frames of the short take-off-vertical landing (STOVL) variant of the F-35. This will enable the aircraft to reach its full life limit.
The laser peening process will take place in a new 16,000ft² facility consisting of two bays and a connected area that houses the laser generator.
FRCE F-35 Joint Program Office site lead Matt Crisp said: “By late spring, we should get to the point where we are running at full capacity, and that will take us through many years of laser peening modifications to the F-35B. We’ll have the facility full with that workload.”
Work on the aircraft will be completed in the next few months.
Last April, the FRCE agreed to take on a component workload to ensure continued readiness for the F/A-18 fleet during the shortage in the workforce caused due to the Covid-19 (coronavirus) pandemic.