Lockheed Martin Co. (NYSE: LMT) chairwoman and CEO Marillyn Hewson today toured the Israel Aerospace Industries Ltd. (IAI) (TASE: ARSP.B1) plant at Ben Gurion Airport with IAI CEO Joseph Weiss. They focused on IAI Lahav Division, which is completing preparations for opening the company's most advanced production line, which will manufacture 811 pairs of wings for the F-35 in the coming years.
IAI executives said that the production line would be ready by summer, and that the first pair of wings will be built in September.
The Israel Air Force will operate a squadron of F-35s, purchased for NIS 10 billion. The agreement signed between IAI and Lockheed Martin a year ago for the manufacture of the plane's wings is part of the F-35 procurement deal between the US and Israeli governments.
Hewson said that the contract between IAI and Lockheed Martin was "another important milestone in the cooperation between our industry and Israeli defense industries. IAI has manufactured for us various components for our products for many years, and production of the F-35 wings continues this process."
The contract period for F-35 wings is estimated at 10-15 years, and IAI estimates sales at $2.5 billion during this period.
IAI's Lahav Division manufactures wings and other components for Lockheed Martin's F-16. For the production of the F-35's wings, IAI invested tens of millions of dollars in a new production line to Lockheed Martin's specifications, including the purchase of innovative manufacturing equipment. The US production line is linear, the production line in Israel will be circular and robotic, with a special conveyor belt moving the wings from point to point. IAI will employ 100 people on the production line, some of whom have already been trained by Lockheed Martin. Lockheed Martin has a permanent training staff in Israel, which is assisting in the setting up of the new production line.
"It is amazing to see how the line changes from day to day and takes on a new shape. The big machine arrived this week, which will drill the holes into the wings," said an IAI executive.
The huge weight of the new production machines installed in the past few weeks required IAI to build a reinforced concrete floor at the facility to prevent ground sinking and inaccuracies in the wings' manufacturing process. Italy's Alenia Aermacchi, which also won a contract to build F-35 wings, had to dismantle the production line and reassemble it three times to meet Lockheed Martin's strict specifications.
The upper part of the F-35's wings are made from composites specially developed for the stealth fighter.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on April 10, 2014
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