March 7, 2009 (by Eric L. Palmer) - Turkish Aerospace Industries, a major supplier to Northrop Grumman Corporation on the F-35 Lightning II aircraft program, has produced and delivered its first composite parts for the jet.
Northrop-Grumman employees assembling the center fuselage section for F-35 AA-1 [Northrop-Grumman photo]
Northrop says the new parts -- structural composite panels used to form the outer surface of the new international, multi-role fighter -- represent a critical first step in TAI's plans to eventually produce 400 center fuselages for the program. Northrop Grumman will integrate the parts into the center fuselages of the first two production F-35s.
"This delivery represents two significant milestones for the program," said Mark Tucker, vice president of tactical systems and F-35 program manager for Northrop Grumman's Aerospace Systems sector. "It demonstrates that TAI can build composite parts to the precision level needed for a high volume, international aircraft program. And it gives Northrop Grumman a very positive progress report on its commitment to grow and nurture international industrial participation in the program."
According to Tucker, the composite panels also represent the first F-35 parts produced in a new composites manufacturing facility opened by TAI last November in Ankara, Turkey
. To date, Northrop Grumman has trained nearly two dozen TAI employees in the high precision fabrication techniques being used in that facility.
TAI's recent shipment included six composite panels - three for each of the two jets being produced under the first phase of low rate initial production. As part of its F-35 work share, the company will produce similar composite panels for every jet made during the production phase of the program.
Northrop Grumman is responsible for the design and production of center fuselages for all three variants of F-35 aircraft: conventional take-off and landing; short take-off, vertical landing; and carrier-compatible.
TAI serves as a second source supplier of F-35 center fuselages to the company. Deliveries of complete TAI-produced center fuselages are scheduled to begin during the low rate initial production (LRIP
) phases of the program.