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Northrop Grumman Delivers First Production Center Fuselage for F-35 Program

Delivery Adds Momentum to Transition From System Development to Production

PALMDALE, Calif., April 30, 2009 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Core News Facts

On April 22, Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE:NOC) reached a major milestone in the development and production of the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter by delivering the center fuselage for the first production F-35 aircraft.

The first production F-35 is designated AF-6. It is the conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL) variant for the U.S. Air Force.

The delivery of the AF-6 center fuselage extends Northrop Grumman's unbroken record of on-time center fuselage deliveries to 19. It also represents the fourth of 14 center fuselages that the company plans to deliver in 2009.

As a principal partner to Lockheed Martin on the F-35 program, Northrop Grumman has made many significant contributions to help the F-35 remain affordable, supportable, lethal and survivable. The most significant achievements include:

  • Refined the center fuselage production process to validate the system design build concepts to ensure smooth transition to full rate production. Production rates are expected to reach one aircraft per day during full rate production.
  • Delivered all assigned mission systems software required to support the initial block of flight-qualified F-35 software. Mission systems software is required to operate mission-specific systems such as radar and other non-flight critical systems. Northrop Grumman mission systems software supports mission plan execution, communications and sensor utilization, plus related prognostics and health management functions.
  • Expanded and nurtured international participation in the F-35 program. Turkish Aerospace Industries continues to expand its production facilities in Ankara, Turkey that will eventually be used to assemble 400 center fuselages for the program. Northrop Grumman has also trained more than 50 technicians from 3 countries in F-35 composites manufacturing and structural assembly techniques.
  • Defined and implemented advanced methods of installing flight test instrumentation in SDD and production center fuselages. These advances help the program reduce risks by providing critical flight test data required to validate the F-35 aircraft design.
  • Made significant investments in using robotics to speed the flow of center fuselage assembly. Installation of robotic drilling machines during low rate initial production is expected to reduce drilling times on key assemblies by up to 70 percent.
  • Used legacy air systems experience to develop diagnostic tools used to ensure that the aircraft remains maintainable.
  • Defined and delivered training systems courseware for pilots and aircraft maintainers to help ensure that the F-35 integrated training centers will be ready when needed.

Quotes:

"The delivery of the center fuselage for the first production F-35 Lightning II marks Northrop Grumman's successful transition from the SDD phase of the program to the low rate initial production phase. During SDD we not only completed the engineering development of the center fuselage, but also developed and validated the design of the production system, the tooling, and the manufacturing processes and procedures that will be used day in, day out to build this aircraft."

-- Mark Tucker, vice president, tactical systems and the F-35 program manager, Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems sector

"Northrop Grumman's consistent on-time delivery of center fuselages helps the F-35 industry team meet its commitments to the customer. It also helps the team ensure delivery of F-35s to the flight line in time to meet users' initial operational need dates."

-- Dan Crowley, Lockheed Martin executive vice president and F-35 program general manager

"Northrop Grumman is focused on managing two inevitable aspects of aircraft development programs: technical risks and change. By understanding and mitigating risks, and working to anticipate changes, we're helping the F-35 industry team successfully develop and demonstrate the world's most capable multi-role fighter."

-- Mark Tucker, vice president, tactical systems and the F-35 program manager, Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems sector

Background : Northrop Grumman Role on F-35:

As a principal member of the Lockheed Martin-led F-35 global industry team, Northrop Grumman is central to the development, production and support of the F-35 Lightning II. The company 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. The F-35 Lightning II program expects to build more than 3,100 aircraft.

Northrop Grumman also designed and produces the aircraft's radar and other key avionics including electro-optical and communications subsystems; develops mission systems and mission-planning software; leads the team's development of pilot and maintenance training system courseware; and manages the team's use, support and maintenance of low-observable technologies.

Northrop Grumman Corporation is a leading global security company whose 120,000 employees provide innovative systems, products, and solutions in aerospace, electronics, information systems, shipbuilding and technical services to government and commercial customers worldwide.

CONTACT:  Brooks McKinney, APR
          Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems
          (310) 331-6610 
          Cell: (310) 864-3785
          brooks.mckinney@ngc.com
 
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