Northrop Grumman expands composites training for TAI

Northrop Grumman's training will help Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) prepare for its role as a second source supplier for the F-35 centre fuselage.

During January and February Northrop Grumman conducted classroom and hands-on training at its Advanced Composites Center in El Segundo, California, USA, for more than a dozen engineers and manufacturing specialists from TAI.

The training was the third in a planned series of classes designed to teach TAI employees, ultimately, how to build a complete F-35 centre fuselage.

"To date, TAI has made great progress in learning the tools and techniques of composites manufacturing," says Mark Tucker, vice president and F-35 programme manager for Northrop Grumman's Aerospace Systems sector. "The recent training helped solidify their understanding of how to successfully produce and handle the actual composite inlet ducts used in the F-35."

TAI is a second source supplier of F-35 centre fuselages to Northrop Grumman, a principal member of the Lockheed Martin-led F-35 industry team. The Turkish company is slated to produce 400 centre fuselages for the programme beginning in the low rate initial production phases.

Guided by Northrop Grumman experts, the training engaged the TAI employees in the production of forward and aft inlet ducts for the jet. It included learning how to use the complex fibre placement mandrels that define the shape of the ducts; operating the machines that perform the actual fibre placement process; preparing the ducts for curing; performing post cure processing; and machining and conducting a final inspection of the completed parts.

According to Tucker, one of the parts that the TAI team helped produce – a forward inlet duct – will be integrated into one of the first major structural assemblies to be produced at TAI's new F-35 assembly facilities in Ankara, Turkey, later this year.

Northrop Grumman is responsible for designing and producing the centre fuselage for all three variants of the F-35.