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 September 14, 2009—With production set to ramp up and all system demonstration development aircraft either in production or on flightlines, Lockheed Martin and the Air Force are working toward the summer 2010 opening of the Integrated Training Center at Eglin AFB, Fla.

Flight operations for the first F-35A conventional takeoff and landing variants are expected to begin next summer as well, said Eric Branyan, Lockheed vice president and F-35 deputy program manager, during a briefing with reporters at AFA’s Air & Space Conference Monday.

By next summer to prepare for initial operations at the training center, Eglin, Air Education and Training Command, and Lockheed will complete several activities, including airworthiness certification, software testing on Lockheed’s “Catbird” testbed aircraft in California, updates to test point and fit restrictions, and finalization of a training syllabus.

As part of this process, AA-1, the initial CTOL test aircraft, will arrive next month at Edwards AFB, Calif., to continue its flight testing program.

Air Force Maj. Gen. C.D. Moore, the Pentagon's deputy program executive officer for the F-35, said that 2010 will start ramping up production and testing as test aircraft are flown and systems mature. He anticipates rapid fielding of the Lightning II.

In five years, Moore said, he believes the F-35 production line will be generating 130 airframes a year, 210 aircraft will be on the flightline, 20 F-35s will be involved in the operational testing program, and seven squadrons will be in place.

Leveraging lessons from the F-22 development cycle, Moore said that he’s confident the program will hit the numbers.