Northrop Grumman produces the centre fuselage for F-35 industry team leader Lockheed Martin. It says that the prototype all-composite air inlet duct reflects the growing maturity of TAI's composite manufacturing processes, and the steady evolution of its role as a second source supplier of centre fuselages for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) programme.

TAI produced the air inlet duct at its composites manufacturing facility in Ankara, Turkey, as part of a five-year, US$28.4 million contract awarded to the company in 2009 by Northrop Grumman.

"TAI has progressed steadily in learning the high-precision manufacturing processes required to produce parts for the most capable multi-role fighter in the world," says Mark Tucker, vice president and F-35 programme manager for the Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems sector. "Its continued success helps us ensure a smooth transition from our current rate of completing approximately two centre fuselages per month to an eventual rate of one centre fuselage per day."

According to Tucker, the destructive test article will be used to validate the quality of TAI's composite manufacturing processes. Deliveries of production quality inlet ducts are expected by the end of 2010.

The delivery of TAI's first air inlet duct follows a series of successful composites manufacturing training sessions conducted over the last two years for the company's engineers and manufacturing specialists by Northrop Grumman. Held at Northrop Grumman's Advanced Composites Center in El Segundo, the training included rigorous classroom and hands-on work to teach the TAI employees how to fabricate an F-35 inlet duct from start to finish.

TAI is a second source supplier of F-35 air inlet ducts and centre fuselages to Northrop Grumman. The Turkish company is slated to produce inlet ducts to support both the current production of centre fuselages on Northrop Grumman's F-35 assembly line in Palmdale, California, USA, and the 400 complete centre fuselages that it will produce in Turkey.