Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman have signed a letter of intent with German defence company Rheinmetall to manufacture F-35 stealth fighter aircraft center fuselages. This would see a second F-35 center fuselage integrated assembly line (IAL) in Germany, expanding the significant role European industry plays in the F-35 program.
“Lockheed Martin has been a committed partner to Germany for more than 50 years. The F-35 program will continue to strengthen our strategic partnerships with key industry partners for years to come,” said Mike Shoemaker, vice president of F-35 Customer Programs at Lockheed Martin. “The F-35 center fuselage production in Germany will be vital to meet the growing global demand for F-35s, which play a vital role in 21st Century Security.”
The cooperation with Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman on the F-35 program underscores Rheinmetall’s importance for national security policy and will bring essential capabilities to Germany. Rheinmetall can contribute its experience both as an integrated technology group in the production of complex components and as an aviation-certified company to the cooperation.
“The center fuselage IAL is recognized as a state-of-the-art facility supported by technologies exclusive to Northrop Grumman, seamlessly blending automation with our expertise in aerospace tooling,” said Glenn Masukawa, vice president and F-35 program manager, Northrop Grumman. “Engaging with Rheinmetall demonstrates our commitment to collaborate with international partners to manufacture advanced aircraft.”
“The long-standing partnership between Lockheed Martin and Rheinmetall, as well as the very close ties that have existed for decades between the Bundeswehr (German Armed Forces) and our company, lead to a genuine transfer of know-how to Germany as an industrial location,” said Armin Papperger, CEO of Rheinmetall AG. “Furthermore, this setup makes a significant contribution to minimizing risk by bringing in national partners that are involved in a tried-and-tested manner.”
The German government announced on 14 March 2022 that it will purchase 35 Lockheed Martin F-35 stealth fighter aircraft to replace its aging Tornado fleet.