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Farnborough: F-35 JSF international production closer as technology transfer concerns recede

By Graham Warwick at Farnborough air show

More pieces of the international jigsaw puzzle that is Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) production and sustainment fell into place at the Farnborough show, with more sourcing deals being signed as technology transfer concerns receded.

"We do not see any big deal on technology transfer any more," says JSF programme director Rear Adm Steven Enewold. "We have gone to each county and asked them what they want and need for operation and support. I don't see any showstoppers."

UK defence procurement minister Lord Drayson says progress has been made since he voiced concerns over technology transfer earlier this year. "There will be more talks over the next few months, which will be key for the [production and sustainment] memorandum of understanding," he says, adding he has "confidence we will be able to resolve it by year-end".

BAE Systems and Lockheed Martin signed a through-life support agreement at the show that extends the companies' existing JSF partnership on development and production of the F-35. BAE will lead sustainment of the F-35 in UK service.

In anticipation of production, the JSF partners are moving to establish second sources among the eight international nations participating in development of the F-35. BAE, manufacturer of the aft fuselage and tails, struck subcontracting deals with Australian, Canadian and Danish companies during the show, signing letters of intent with Avcorp, Broens, Hawker de Havilland, Magellan Aerospace, Marand, Metaltec and Terma to manufacture horizontal and vertical tails and provide tooling.

Primary engine supplier Pratt & Whitney signed Australia's Production Parts, Canada's Magellan, Denmark's GPV, Italy's Piaggio and Turkey's KaleKalip to produce parts for its F135. The General Electric Rolls-Royce Fighter Engine Team signed Italy's Avio as a partner on production of its F136 alternate engine.

During the show, the fourth and final Congressional committee voted to restore funding for development of the F136, cut by the US Department of Defense, but the funds allocated range from $400 million to as little as $200 million, so the final figure will not be decided until later this year.

Enewold says the DoD does not believe it will recoup investment in the F136 through savings from an engine contest. There is also concern that money for the F136 will come from elsewhere in the JSF budget, which is facing other cuts.

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