TAI delivers first center fuselage to Northrop Grumman for F-35 JSF

Ankara-based Turkish Aerospace Industries Inc. (TAI) has delivered to Northrop Grumman its first composite F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) center fuselage.

Turkish Aerospace Industries Inc. (TAI, Ankara, Turkey) reported on Dec. 11 that it has delivered its first F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) center fuselage at a ceremony held at its Ankara facilities. This all-composite part subcontract manufactured by TAI for Northrop Grumman (Falls Church, Va., USA) will be installed in a U.S. Air Force aircraft at Lockheed Martin's Fort Worth, Texas, USA, facilities.

In order to serve as second-source supplier of F-35 center fuselages, with production originally forecast at 400 complete assemblies, TAI opened a new composites manufacturing facility in Ankara in November 2008. Here, TAI is the single-source producer for selected F-35 composite components for all F-35 variants and one of two sources for the F-35A composite air inlet ducts and air-to-ground alternate mission pylons for all F-35 variants.

Muharrem Dortkasli, president and chief executive officer of TAI, states, “TAI invested in brand new, state-of-the-art facilities, machinery, equipment and tooling to manufacture the most advanced and complex assembly of the F-35, Fifth-generation fighter aircraft. It is now time to begin delivering world-class TAI center fuselages to the final production line at an increasing rate every year.”

“Turkish Aerospace Industries has played an integral part in the development and production of the F-35 for more than a decade,” says Steve O'Bryan, vice president of F-35 Program Integration and Business Development for Lockheed Martin.

Brian Chappel, vice president, F-35 program, Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems adds, “We worked hand-in-hand to manufacture the first center fuselage, following established processes implemented by Northrop Grumman on our own assembly line in California. Together, we are driving down costs and raising efficiencies to help the F-35 program meet its affordability goals.”

Once the program reaches full rate production, TAI will support F-35 final assembly lines in the United States and Italy by shipping one center fuselage every 10 days. This is a lower rate than what Northrop Grumman projected in October 2009. The five-year, $28.4 million USD contract with TAI will help ensure a smooth transition from its current rate of completing approximately one F-35 center fuselage per month, to an eventual rate of one center fuselage per day.”

Northrop Grumman is responsible for the design and production of center fuselages for all three variants of the F-35 Lightning II aircraft, and originally projected to build more than 3,100 aircraft.