Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman have signed a letter of intent with Rheinmetall AG as a strategic source of supply for the F-35 center fuselage.
This potential partnership would establish a second F-35 center fuselage integrated assembly line (IAL) in Germany, expanding the role European industry plays in the F-35 program.
The agreement comes after Germany announced in March last year it would be buying up to 35 F-35 jets to replace the 40-year-old Tornado fleet.
“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,” said Mike Shoemaker, vice president of F-35 Customer Programs at Lockheed Martin. “The F-35 center 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 is a principal partner on the Lockheed Martin F-35 program. In addition to manufacturing the jet’s center fuselage and wing skins, the company is also responsible for developing, producing and maintaining sensor systems, avionics, and aircraft and training software.
“The center fuselage IAL is recognized as a state-of-the-art facility supported by technologies exclusive to Northrop Grumman, seamlessly blending automation with our expertise in aerospace tooling,” said Glenn Masukawa, vice president and F-35 program manager, Northrop Grumman. “Engaging with Rheinmetall demonstrates our commitment to collaborate with international partners to manufacture advanced aircraft.”
German industry has contributed to the F-35 program since its inception in 2001. Lockheed Martin added it continues to explore additional industrial participation opportunities that will enable partnerships across the German industry and create jobs in 5th-generation fighter aircraft manufacturing, sustainment, training, research and development.
“The long-standing 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,” said Armin Papperger, CEO of Rheinmetall AG. “Furthermore, this setup makes a significant contribution to minimizing risk by bringing in national partners that are involved in a tried-and-tested manner.”
To date, the F-35 operates from 37 bases and ships worldwide, with nine nations operating F-35s on their home soil. There are more than 890 F-35s in service today, with more than 1,890 pilots and 13,570 maintainers trained on the aircraft.