Lockheed Martin demonstrates F-35 productivity improvements

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Marina Malenic, Washington, DC - IHS Jane's Defence Weekly
19 February 2015

Lockheed Martin has evaluated 131 proposals for cost-saving reductions on the F-35, 58 of which have been implemented. Source: Lockheed Martin

Key Points
  • Lockheed Martin has begun implementing productivity improvements under its 'blueprint for affordability'
  • The company says the government will save some USD1.8 billion under the effort
Lockheed Martin is making its F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter production line more efficient in a drive towards a USD80 million (adjusted for inflation) target cost for the conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL) A-model of the stealthy combat aircraft by 2019, the company's programme director said on 18 February.

"Every month, every week, new projects get approved," said Lorraine Martin. "And as I go through negotiations, we'll roll that right in."

The improvements are part of a 'blueprint for affordability' unveiled by the company last year. To date, Lockheed Martin has evaluated 131 proposals for cost-saving reductions, 58 of which have been implemented, said Martin. She told reporters that the ideas were generated by the company and its suppliers.

Lockheed Martin, with its two main industry partners on the project, BAE Systems and Northrop Grumman, has pledged to spend USD170 million over two years on the initiative. The Pentagon plans to spend another USD300 million on additional such efforts if Lockheed Martin and engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney succeed in bringing the cost per aircraft, including the engine, to USD80 million by 2019, Martin told reporters. The government would save some USD1.8 billion under the effort, she added.

One example of an efficiency project already being implemented is a new method for creating the diverterless supersonic inlet (DSI) bump inside the F-35's engine intakes. They had been created using a robot to build up layers of paint in a paint barn, but now a different type of robot will insert an injection mould into each inlet and fill it with the stealth coating precisely right on the production line while work continues on other parts of the fuselage. Development of the new process cost USD742,000 but is expected to save USD6,000 per aircraft and around USD27 million over the life of the programme.

By already including such savings in the low-rate initial production Lot 8 (LRIP 8) contract, Lockheed Martin will have to stand by the savings projection built into the unit price. If, for example, a project like the new DSI coating method is expected to save USD6,000 per aircraft, Lockheed Martin will either gain a return on any excess savings or lose the difference of the savings do not materialise. "Whatever I sign up to build it for, that's all I'm going to get," said Martin.

She said the company offered efficiency products set to yield USD260,000 per aircraft in LRIP 8, the contract for which was signed in 2014. LRIP 9, which is to be negotiated along with LRIP 10 later this year, is expected to offer savings of nearly USD1 million per aircraft.

Lockheed Martin demonstrates F-35 productivity improvements - IHS Jane's 360
 

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