Lockheed Martin is talking to Airbus Industrie about providing a commercially modelled after-sales support programme for the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF).

The move is designed to counter rival JSF combat aircraft builder Boeing's strong civil international support infrastructure.

The US manufacturer and partners BAE Systems and Northrop Grumman have drafted a memorandum of agreement (MOA) to co-operate with Airbus to provide a worldwide JSF support network. The proposed MOA is still loosely defined, but serves as a platform for co-operation with Airbus, not just on JSF, but possibly in other areas.

"In co-ordination with Airbus we are looking at using some of their commercial sources of repair, perhaps for supply management or regional warehousing of parts. There is an awful lot we can do together," says Luke Gill, JSF vice- president product support.

A significant cost-reduction driver for the JSF programme is to remove the need for depot level maintenance and instead create a just-in-time supply system that allows the removal and replacement of components at an operational level and maximises fighter turn around time.

Gill was formerly Southwest Airline's engineering vice-president and was hired by Lockheed Martin to develop commercial business practices for the JSF programme. Airline type concepts being considered for JSF include power-by-the-hour component maintenance, guaranteed mission availability rates and prioritised aircraft on the ground responses.

"What I'm trying to do is build an infrastructure without a huge capital investment for Lockheed Martin. Airbus has regional warehouses and an ability to help us distribute those parts and use an existing supply chain. We're talking about just in time that will be hourly based, not days," says Gill.

Airbus involvement with JSF is being viewed as part of a wider developing relationship with Lockheed Martin. The European consortium has shown an interest in Lockheed Martin Information Systems' new Orlando-based training facility, which is being equipped with an A320 simulator. The US company has long been viewed as a potential player in the A3XX ultra-large aircraft development.

Source: Flight International