A Northrop Grumman engineer inspects the first F-35 production air inlet duct delivered by Turkish Aerospace Industries.
A Northrop Grumman engineer inspects the first F-35 production air inlet duct delivered by Turkish Aerospace Industries.

The delivery of the all-composite duct, a major structural element of the F-35's centre fuselage, will support Northrop Grumman's production of F-35 centre fuselages at its production facility in Palmdale, California.

"This delivery reflects the growing maturity of TAI's composite fibre-placed 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," says Mark Tucker, vice president and F-35 programme manager for Northrop Grumman's Aerospace Systems sector.

Northrop Grumman is a principal subcontractor of the Lockheed Martin-led F-35 team.

TAI produced the air inlet duct at its composites manufacturing facility in Ankara, Turkey, as part of a 5-year, $28.4 million contract awarded to the company in September 2009 by Northrop Grumman.

"The delivery of this first production duct represents the successful culmination of a training process for TAI that began in El Segundo approximately 2 years ago," notes David Dominguez, manufacturing engineering lead for international production for Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems. "Over the course of that instruction, TAI's engineers and manufacturing specialists have grown from having limited knowledge of composites manufacturing processes to now being able to produce large, complex, high precision parts for one of the most advanced weapon systems in the world."

TAI is a second source supplier of F-35 air inlet ducts and centre fuselages to Northrop Grumman. The 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, and the 400 complete centre fuselages that it will produce in Turkey.

Deliveries of the TAI-produced centre fuselages are scheduled to begin in 2013, as part the F-35 programme's fifth phase of low rate initial production.

Northrop Grumman is responsible for designing and producing the centre fuselage for all three variants of the F-35.