The ability to accurately predict residual stresses and resultant distortions is a key product from process assembly simulations. Assembly processes necessarily consider large structural components potentially making simulations computationally expensive. The objective herein is to develop greater understanding of the influence of friction stir welding process idealization on the prediction of residual stress and distortion and thus determine the minimum required modeling fidelity for future airframe assembly simulations. The combined computational and experimental results highlight the importance of accurately representing the welding forging force and process speed. In addition, the results emphasize that increased CPU simulation times are associated with representing the tool torque, while there is potentially only local increase in prediction fidelity.