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F-35 prime contractor Lockheed Martin is expanding the capacity of its one-mile, 25-foot long aircraft assembly line facility here so it is capable of producing roughly 200 jets per year by the end of 2019.
The F-35 program will triple its aircraft production and fielding rate by 2019, producing over 120 planes per year. It will deliver about 43 planes next year.
Lockheed Martin is ramping up to a total of 16 mate facilities at full rate production (FRP) from its nine current mate stations, company F-35 Business Development Manager Kevin McCormick said Oct. 28 on a tour of the facility. McCormick said a mate station is where Lockheed Martin brings the four major components of the airframe together: forward, center and aft fuselages and aircraft wings. McCormick said by the time the last of the mate stations is in position by 2018, Lockheed Martin will be at full capacity.
The company manufactures the forward fuselage and wings in Fort Worth while subcontractors BAE Systems makes the aft fuselage in the United Kingdom and Northrop Grumman [NOC] produces the center fuselage in Palmdale, Calif. McCormick said Lockheed Martin utilizes a camera and laser alignment system to get these four major components aligned in a three-dimensional space to minimize steps and gaps. By doing this, the company prevents them from becoming radar reflectors and makes the aircraft low observable.
McCormick said Lockheed Martin is expanding the wing line on the assembly line to make it easier for the company to pick up the aircraft and move it to other mate stations. It currently uses a wing rotation to move the aircraft between mate stations.