Joint Strike Fighter centre fuselages could soon be constructed on an integrated assembly line in Germany, according to a new letter of intent between Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Rheinmetall AG.
The agreement would establish a second supply line for manufacturing the F-35 Lightning II centre fuselage and wing skins, sensor systems, avionics, aircraft, and training software.
Internationally, there are more than 890 F-35s in service, with more than 1,890 pilots and 13,570 maintainers trained on the aircraft. The aircraft operates from 37 bases and ships worldwide for nine nations.
Lockheed Martin F-35 customer programs vice-president Mike Shoemaker said the potential partnership would expand the significant role European industry plays in the F-35 program alongside principal partner, Northrop Grumman.
“Lockheed Martin has been a committed partner to Germany for more than 50 years. The F-35 program will continue to strengthen our strategic partnerships with key industry partners for years to come,” he said.
“The F-35 centre fuselage production in Germany will be vital to meet the growing global demand for F-35s, which play a vital role in 21st-century security.”
Northrop Grumman vice-president and F-35 program manager Glenn Masukawa said German industry has contributed to the F-35 program since its inception in 2001.
“The centre fuselage IAL is recognised as a state-of-the-art facility supported by technologies exclusive to Northrop Grumman, seamlessly blending automation with our expertise in aerospace tooling,” he said.
“Engaging with Rheinmetall demonstrates our commitment to collaborate with international partners to manufacture advanced aircraft.”
Rheinmetall AG chief executive officer Armin Papperger said cooperation with Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman underscores Rheinmetall’s importance for national security policy for Germany.
“The longstanding partnership between Lockheed Martin and Rheinmetall, as well as the very close ties that have existed for decades between the Bundeswehr (German Armed Forces) and our company, lead to a genuine transfer of know-how to Germany as an industrial location,” he said.
“Furthermore, this set-up makes a significant contribution to minimising risk by bringing in national partners that are involved in a tried-and-tested manner.”