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During the Singapore Airshow in February, Lockheed Martin finally admitted that deliveries of the SDD aircraft are between four and six
months behind schedule. Steve O’Bryan, F-35 Business Development and Customer Engagement Vice President said that, in response, the US
Government has allocated a further US$ 2.8 billion for the SDD phase and another CV (carrier variant) test article will be added to expand the
flight test programme. However he claimed that IOC for all three services will be preserved, including the looming 2012 date for the Marines.
O’Bryan said the delays had been caused by inadequate provisioning of logistics in the early phase of SDD production, and the fact that aircraft
were reaching the flight sheds in an incomplete state.
Bob Price says that although a couple of Australian companies have not delivered some components on time, he is not aware that they have
attributed to the above delays. “We’re working with those companies to find out what their problems are” he said “We’ll help them get back
on track, and we’ve not terminated any Australian contracts to my knowledge”. Conversely, Price points to the performance of Marand, who
received a Supplier Excellence award from Lockheed Martin at the last Avalon Airshow, for its work in delivering 123 tool sets over a five-month
period – just over half of the nine month timeframe originally contracted, and in response to an urgent request from Lockheed Martin.
The recent US Quadrennial Defence Review (QDR) has also thrown some doubt on the number of F-35s that will be eventually procured for
the US ser vices, particularly the number required by the US Air Force, though Lockheed Martin is still working with the original total figure of
Late deliveries and the spectre of a reduced production run will undoubtedly have its affect on industry contracting, but the cost overruns
attributed to the JSF programme has resulted in the Pentagon reporting a breach of the Nunn-McCurdy laws to Congress. The Nunn-McCurdy
law requires a report when a programme exceeds its cost predictions by 15%, and can result in its termination.
All of these pressures have the potential to reduce or delay F-35 manufacture and the crystal ball is somewhat cloudy when it comes to
predicting the future. APDR
Work-share criticism aside, local industry has won some significant orders
over the past 12 months and, subject to the successful negotiation of
contracts, this will add a great deal of value to the Australian economy.
Marand Precision Engineering of Melbourne was one of the early
success stories, winning a contract to design and fabricate a common
engine installation and removal trailer that will be used at every air base
and aboard every aircraft carrier that flies the F-35. Since then it has
won several engineering contracts and most recently announced that it
would assemble the vertical tail units, as a second source to BAE Systems
in the UK. Subject to the development of a final business case, Marand
will manufacture structural components and conduct the final assembly
of more than 700 ship-sets of vertical tails at its Moorabbin facility.
If successful, the first Australian vertical tail could be shipped to the
assembly line in Fort Worth in the 2013 timeframe.
Perth composites manufacturer Quickstep Holdings signed an MoU with
Marand in late 2009 for the manufacture the vertical tails composite skins.
The company also signed an MoU with Northrop Grumman for the supply
of 19,325 composite doors and access panels for the JSF. The contract will
see Quickstep manufacturing 21 different components, including lower
side skins, maintenance access panels, F2 fuel tank covers, lower skins and
inboard weapons bay doors. Managing Director Philippe Odouard says the
contract is worth $700 million and will create a minimum of 156 high-end
jobs, with the possibility of a further 620 in the support activities. Odouard
says Quickstep currently has a team of five people in the US, talking with
the OEM and has just signed a Manufacturing License Agreement with
Northrop Grumman, paving the way for the transfer of technical data.
Once this has occurred, he says he expects to sign a Long Term Agreement
in the second quarter of this year. The contract for the composite vertical
tail skins will follow on some six to twelve months later.
Ferra Engineering of Brisbane has also recently signed a second MoU
with Marvin Engineering and Lockheed Martin, for the supply of weapon
adaptor assemblies. Bob Price says that the company has demonstrated
the required level of capability and commitment in its previous work and
the new agreement will see Ferra producing two extra adaptors over and
above the original contract for four assemblies. “Under its MoU signed
in 2003, Ferra has not only met all its milestones on the initial contract,
but has worked with Lockheed on advanced research and development
into specialised titanium machining processes”, says Price, “The results
of the machining processes have proved highly successful in reducing
Price also singles out Chemring Australia at Lara in Victoria, who recently
signed an MoU for the second source supply of advanced flares to the JSF
programme. In addition, he says that Lockheed Martin has accredited
Electromold Australia from Thomastown as a metalworking subcontractor
to several engineering companies already on contract. These companies
include Ferra, Production Parts, Lovitt Technologies Australia and Levett
JSF AA1 test flight.
Credit: Lockheed Martin
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