BF-2 rolledoff the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter assembly line in
So far, sogood.
But what happenswhen the annual output rate basically triples from 2010 to 2012 (12 to 32 + afew foreign orders), then almost quadruples from 2012 to 2014 (32+ to 118+)?
F-35program manager Lt. Gen. Charles Davis, who I interviewed last month, told me healready is seeing the strains of simultaneous ramp-ups for both JSF and the 787as he visits production sites worldwide. “I’m fighting for space in the plant that’sfor 787 stuff,”
The JSFprogram is hoping to cope with this phenomenon by investing an extra $1.5billion in upfront tooling, mainly to bring second-source suppliers, such asTAI in
Behind the scenes,the US and UK industry partners are working intensely with other foreign manufacturersthat will serve as second source suppliers on critical parts in the full-rateproduction phase. Northrop Grumman’s Randy Secor, a vice president for the F-35program, told me earlier this month that TAI’s employees have been trained on theproduction line with Northrop’s mechanics and assemblers. “Lack of a criticalpart at a single supplier will stop you dead in your tracks,” Secor said.
But F-35industry officials are also realistic about the difficulty of staying on trackas the production rate escalates after 2012. Secor told me that he expects “hugechallenges” with meeting the one aircraft per day target after 2016, but it isachievable if the entire industry team works together to solve the problemsthat arise rather than pointing fingers.