Australia's Quickstep Technologies has signed a long-term agreement with Northrop Grumman to produce parts for the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II.

Under the deal the Australian aerospace manufacturing firm will make access panels, fuel tank covers, aircraft skins, and in-board weapons bay doors, says Australia's minister for defence materiel Jason Clare.

Quickstep has also signed a memorandum of understanding with another Australian company, Marand Precision Engineering, to supply vertical tail skins for the JSF.

The agreement positions Quickstep to secure up to A$580 million ($587 million) in F-35 work over the next 20 years and provide 400 jobs, says Clare, who recently signed a 'global supply deed' with Lockheed.

"Under the agreement Lockheed Martin will put in place a team of people dedicated to finding opportunities for Australian companies on top of the JSF project," he says.

"They are in charge of some big and important projects around the world and this gives Australian companies access to the work that flows out of that," says Clare. "It's a chance for Australian companies to take their expertise to the world."

In May 2010, the then minister for defence materiel, Greg Combet, called on Lockheed to give Australian firms a larger share of the F-35 programme. At the time he said that 28 Australian companies had won work on the programme valued at more than A$200 million, primarily during the initial design and production of test aircraft.

Combet also said that progress in securing additional work had been "slower than expected" in some areas.

Quickstep originally signed a memorandum of understanding with Northrop in November 2009 for the F-35 work, which will take place in a former Boeing facility in Bankstown near Sydney.

Australia has so far committed to buying 14 conventional take-off and landing F-35As, with a decision to acquire at least 58 more to be made next year.

Source: Flight International