Quickstep Holdings Ltd. (Bankstown, New South Wales, Australia), a manufacturer of high-grade carbon-fiber composite components announced Dec. 2 that it has been awarded a $1 million grant from the Australian government through the Australian Department of Defense’s New Air Combat Capability Industry Support Program. The grant will finance qualification of the Quickstep Process for manufacturing F-35 Lightning II Joint Striker Fighter (JSF) vertical tail spars, which provide stabilization for aircraft in flight.
Through its agreement to manufacture parts for the JSF program, Quickstep expects to contribute to more than 700 JSF shipsets of tails over the next 20 years. Although Quickstep currently makes spars using autoclave systems, Quickstep’s patented liquid-based process reportedly offers a faster, more cost-effective way to manufacture parts in series. The grant will fund Quickstep’s work over three years with the JSF’s New Air Combat Capability, BAE Systems and Lockheed Martin Aerospace to develop the case for changing the JSF’s sparmaking technology from the autoclave to the Quickstep Process. The goal is to produce demonstration parts, including a first part qualification spar, then qualify Quickstep’s Bankstown Airport facilities to use the production method for JSF spars, and establish a path for the transfer.
Quickstep managing director Philippe Odouard says, “We are grateful to the Australian Government for its continued support which provides funding to take us through to production. The Quickstep Process offers a new efficient way to produce JSF components at reduced cost while improving quality. This could assist Lockheed Martin’s affordability initiative program to reduce F-35 costs for the program’s partner countries. If qualification is successful it should be accepted as an alternative to the JSF program’s standard curing technology. This is exciting as it will showcase our capability for tail production and, as the program develops, the Quickstep Process’ potential use to develop entire wing structures for next-generation commercial aircraft manufacturers.”
The Quickstep Process involves surrounding raw carbon-fibre and resin with heated liquids which transfer heat 25 times faster than traditional autoclave (or "oven-heated") methods, enabling composite components to be cured more efficiently and at a much lower cost.
The New Air Combat Capability Industry Support Program is a grants program intended to foster the development of new or improved Australian industry capabilities that directly support the JSF program. The grant awarded to Quickstep will be funded by the Department of Defence’s Defence Materiel Organisation (DMO) and administered by AusIndustry, and is provided for development of a JSF technology capability that has multiple applications.
Quickstep will manufacture 21 different parts for the JSF program at its Bankstown Airport facility. The overall agreement to supply JSF parts to several different Original Equipment Manufacturers is valued at up to $700 million to the company over two decades. At peak production rates, the company is expected to generate JSF revenue of approximately $40 million per annum.
The F-35 Lightning II is a fifth-generation fighter, combining advanced stealth with fighter speed and agility. The Joint Strike Fighter program is currently the world’s largest defense contract, valued at over $300 billion.