Engine deal signals build up of military maintenance arm as US aerospace manufacturer also seeks partners in Taiwan

Lockheed Martin is increasing its military maintenance activities by forming an engine overhaul partnership with General Electric. It is also planning to create a joint venture in Taiwan to bid for air force outsourcing work.

Lockheed Martin and GE will perform depot-level maintenance of TF39 turbofans and Rolls-Royce T56 turboprops, as well as assembling and testing F110-132 engines for 80 United Arab Emirates Lockheed Martin F-16 Block 60s.

The Kelly Aviation Center at the former US Air Force base at San Antonio, Texas, starts work on the first of the TF39s this month. F110-132 operations will start in the second quarter of next year.

The centre is expected eventually to offer maintenance on other USAF and US Navy engines, as well as possibly performing other powerplant assembly work for non-US operators. GE and Lockheed Martin say this could also include the F136 engine in development for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

GE's has a 15% share in the venture, which will grow to 49% by 2007, when the shareholdings will be frozen. The deal was struck to support the TF39-powered C-5 in the run-up to the planned re-engining of the transport with the GECF6-80C2, but has been expanded to broaden its potential.

Lockheed Martin says partners in its Aviation Technology Services venture inTaiwan are likely to include Aerospace Industrial Development Corporation, Air Asia, China Airlines and Evergreen Technologies. Bidders for work must be at least 55% locally owned.

Lockheed Martin expects to finalise agreements by year-end ahead of an expected request for proposals (RFP) from the Taiwanese air force for the operation of the Taichung airframe maintenance depot for 25 years. The RFP will cover all air force operated turboprop- and piston-powered, fixed- and rotary- wing aircraft. A contractor is due to be selected late next year.

Maintenance facilities at Kangshan (engines) and Pingtung (avionics) will be outsourced through competitions at the end of next year and 2004. However, these plans depend on the outcome of the Taichung competition.

Source: Flight International