The F-35. (Picture courtesy of Lockheed Martin.)
The F-35. (Picture courtesy of Lockheed Martin.)

The composite ducts are part of the aircraft's centre fuselage, which US-based defence company Northrop Grumman produces for F-35 prime contractor Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT).

Northrop Grumman says that the five-year, US$28.4 million contract with TAI of Ankara, Turkey, will help ensure a smooth transition from its current rate of completing approximately one F-35 centre fuselage per month, to an eventual rate of one centre fuselage per day.

The first deliveries of composite F-35 ducts from TAI are scheduled for June 2010.

All F-35 centre fuselages are currently produced at Northrop Grumman's Palmdale,California, USA, Manufacturing Centre. To date, all inlet ducts for F-35 aircraft have been produced in the company's Composites Manufacturing Centre in El Segundo, California.

TAI currently serves as a second source supplier of F-35 centre fuselages to Northrop Grumman. As part of plans to eventually produce 400 complete centre fuselages, TAI opened a new composites manufacturing facility at its headquarters in Ankara in November 2008. That facility is currently producing composite sub-assemblies for the F-35 and will also fabricate the composite inlet ducts.

"This contract reinforces Northrop Grumman's commitment to help expand international participation in the F-35 programme, while keeping us focused on putting aircraft on the ramp to meet our customers' operational need dates," says Mark Tucker, vice president and F-35 programme manager for Northrop Grumman's Aerospace Systems sector.

Northrop Grumman (NYSE:NOC) is responsible for the design and production of centre fuselages for all three variants of the F-35 aircraft. The F-35 Lightning II programme expects to build more than 3100 aircraft.