Germany’s Rheinmetall could become a second source of F-35 centre fuselages after striking an initial agreement with Lockheed Martin and incumbent supplier Northrop Grumman.
The subject of a letter of intent (LoI), the pact would see Rheinmetall establish a centre fuselage integrated assembly line (IAL) in Germany.
Should the deal proceed, it would be the second such facility, expanding on Northrop’s existing IAL in Palmdale, California.
Berlin in late 2022 signed off on the acquisition of 35 A-model fighters to replace the Luftwaffe’s fleet of aged Panavia Tornados for the nuclear deterrent mission.
Rheinmetall’s LoI with Lockheed and Northrop is part of a package of offset agreements related to that purchase.
“The centre fuselage IAL is recognised as a state-of-the-art facility supported by technologies exclusive to Northrop Grumman, seamlessly blending automation with our expertise in aerospace tooling,” says Glenn Masukawa, vice-president and F-35 programme manager at the US firm.
“Engaging with Rheinmetall demonstrates our commitment to collaborate with international partners to manufacture advanced aircraft.”