Advanced composites manufacturer Quickstep Holdings Ltd. has signed agreements with U.S. aerospace firms that may lead to contracts for supplying components for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter now under development.
Philippe Odouard, Quickstep's managing director, said a memorandum of understanding with Lockheed Martin Corp. of Bethesda, Md., and Los Angeles-based Northrop Grumman Corp. had potential to be converted by March 2010 into a long-term deal to supply more than 19,000 composite components. The components include exterior skins, access panels, fuel-tank covers and weapons bay doors.
The deal would be worth almost US$650 million during the 20-year life of the JSF development program.
The F-35 Lightning II JSF aircraft is being developed for global markets at Lockheed's Fort Worth, Texas, facilities in partnership with Northrop Grumman and London-based defense and aerospace firm BAE Systems plc.
The aircraft cost almost US$100 million each and deliveries are scheduled to start this year and run until 2030.
The fighter program is being funded mainly by the U.S. and United Kingdom governments, in partnership with Australia, Italy, the Netherlands, Canada, Turkey, Norway and Denmark.
Odouard said the Australian government has been waiting for a commitment from the plane's developers to use Australian manufacturers before formally committing to buy 100 of the fighters for its defense force.
The potential value of the long-term agreement to Quickstep and Australia cannot be overstated, Odouard said. He said a successful deal will lead to other potential defense and aerospace contracts.
Creating a critical mass of advanced composite manufacturing know-how and capability greatly strengthens our chances of establishing a world-class competitive industry here in Australia, he said.
Odouard said Perth-based Quickstep has significant capabilities and expertise in the production of aerospace-grade composite components using conventional autoclave-based manufacturing and out-of-autoclave production technologies, including its proprietary Quickstep Process used for rapidly curing composite materials.
The Quickstep Process replaces an autoclave with a glycol-type fluid held in bladders that close like a clamshell around the part, providing better bonding, more efficient and faster heating and rapid cooling, all of which mean reduced processing times.
Copyright 2010 Crain Communications Inc. All Rights Reserved.