Northrop Grumman Corporation, a major developer and producer of the U.S. Military’s F-35 weapons system, selected Tulsa-based company NORDAM to manufacture major structural components for the F-35 center fuselage. As a supplier to Northrop Grumman, NORDAM will produce three of the aircraft’s internal parts made entirely from composite materials. Additionally, In addition, NORDAM’s Nacelle & Thrust Reverser Systems (NTR) division will supply Northrop Grumman up to 35 ship-sets per year for six years.
“Assembly of the center fuselage begins with the parts that NORDAM will manufacture,” said Meredith Siegfried Madden, NORDAM’s CEO. “There was a lot of competition for this contract, but among other factors, our many years of experience in composites and complex bondment and layup, coupled with our niche expertise in automated fiber placement (AFP) processing, secured the deal.”
In addition to producing the jet’s center fuselage, Northrop Grumman produces the F-35’s radar, electro-optical, avionics and communications subsystems.
The F-35 is a fifth-generation combat aircraft designed to replace a wide range of aging fighter and strike aircraft for the U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps, as well as allied nations defense forces worldwide. As NORDAM explained, it was part of a “rigorous request-for-proposal process” which included a site visit and review by Northrop Grumman.
“As this is a new platform for us, we’ll attain key process certifications in the course of performing work on the contract, including qualification by Lockheed Martin to work on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program,” Clawson said. “We are confident those achievements will further enhance NORDAM’s attractiveness when proposing on new work within the same and similar platforms for these two major defense contractors.”
To meet the demands of the contract, NORDAM’s NTR facility will undergo upgrades such as paint shop enhancements, and receive new equipment purchases, including two new, high-tech automated fiber placement machines (AFP) for laying carbon fiber tape, and an additional five-axis cutter. NTR Vice President and General Manager John Clawson expected there will be “approximately 20 months of build-up activity and the addition of about 20 related positions before full production is underway.”