TAI ships prototype composite air inlet duct for F-35

Turkish Aerospace Industries Inc. has delivered a prototype of the all-composite air inlet duct for the F-35 Lightning II.

Turkish Aerospace Industries, Inc. (TAI, Ankara, Turkey), a major international F-35 Lightning II supplier to Northrop Grumman Corp. announced that it has delivered a prototype of its first major structural element for the jet's center fuselage, which Northrop Grumman produces for F-35 industry team leader Lockheed Martin (Ft. Worth, Texas, USA).

The destructive test article, the prototype all-composite air inlet duct, is said to reflect the growing maturity of TAI´s composite fiber-placed manufacturing processes, and the steady evolution of its role as a second source supplier of center fuselages for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program.

TAI produced the air inlet duct at its composites manufacturing facility in Ankara, Turkey, as part of a five-year, $28.4 million (USD) contract awarded to the company in Septembert. 2009 by Northrop Grumman.

"TAI has progressed steadily in learning the high-precision manufacturing
processes required to produce parts for the most capable multi-role fighter in the world," said Mark Tucker, vice president and F-35 program manager for Northrop Grumman´s Aerospace Systems sector. "Its continued success helps us ensure a smooth transition from our current rate of completing approximately two center fuselages per month to an eventual rate of one center fuselage per day."

According to Tucker, the destructive test article will be used to validate the quality of TAI´s composite manufacturing processes. Deliveries of production quality inlet ducts are expected by the end of calendar 2010.

"This delivery is another major step by TAI to demonstrate its commitment to the success of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program," said Muharrem Dortkasli, TAI´s president and chief executive officer.

According to Dortkasli, the company has made significant investment since 2007 in new technologies and facilities required to meet F-35 program requirements. In addition to opening its Advanced Composites Facilities in 2008 and 2010, TAI plans to open a new F-35 JSF Center Fuselage Assembly and Coating Facility in 2011.

The delivery of TAI´s first air inlet duct follows a series of successful composites manufacturing training sessions conducted over the last two years for the company´s engineers and manufacturing specialists by Northrop Grumman. Held at Northrop Grumman´s Advanced Composites Center in El Segundo, Calif., USA, the training included rigorous classroom and hands-on work to teach the TAI employees how to fabricate an F-35 inlet duct from start to finish.

TAI is a second source supplier of F-35 air inlet ducts and center fuselages to Northrop Grumman. The Turkish company is slated to produce inlet ducts to support both the current production of center fuselages on Northrop Grumman's F-35 assembly line in Palmdale, Calif., and the 400 complete center fuselages that it will produce in Turkey.

Deliveries of the TAI-produced center fuselages are scheduled to begin in 2013, as part the F-35 program´s sixth phase of low rate initial production.