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Lockheed Martin Prepares for F-35 Ramp-up to Drive Down Costs

IHS Jane's 360 // June 16, 2015

Lockheed Martin has begun preparing for a significant ramp-up in production of the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) as it looks to realise its goal of a USD85 million per unit price-tag for the aircraft in the 2019 timeframe, a senior official reported on 15 June.

Briefing during the Paris Air Show at Le Bourget, Lorraine Martin, executive vice-president and general manager of the F-35 programme, said that infrastructure improvements to the primary manufacturing site at Fort Worth, Texas, coupled with the opening of a line in Cameri in Italy, and ongoing preparations for a line in Japan, should see the programme on its way to achieving its full-rate production goal of 17 aircraft a month by the mid-2020s. This, in turn, will provide the economies of scale needed to get the F-35 down to USD85 million from the current approximately USD120 million.

"All the facilities in Fort Worth, Italy, and Japan are keeping pace with the preparations needed for ramp-up," she said. "We are right now in negotiations for approximately 150 aircraft under [low-rate initial production] LRIP 9 and 10 for later this year, and by about 2019 we will start seeing the [price] reductions anticipated under the 'Blueprint for Affordability' [initiative]."

Specifically, the infrastructure improvements include a new receiving dock for major components at Fort Worth, as well as new laser-aligned mating stations, a doubling of the paint-shop capacity (to 17 aircraft a month), as well as the addition of new flight-line hangar bays (up to 34 by 2018). The facility in Cameri is now and up running, with the first aircraft having already been rolled out (the orders for Italy and the Netherlands will be satisfied by this plant). Preparations for building a Japanese facility are under way also, Martin said.

With the programme having already reduced the F-35 unit cost from USD250 million down to about USD120 million through LRIPs 1 to 8, Martin anticipates shaving another USD1 million of the price of the jet in LRIP 9. The final LRIP (15), which is expected in 2021, should see the cost at about USD80 million per aircraft (while the A model aircraft is quoted, the savings apply also to the B and C, although perhaps with some variations related to the different systems and components).

See the full article from IHS Jane's 360.