An Update on F-35 Manufacturability: The Global Perspective


01/22/12 In a recent Inside the Navy report from Jason Sherman, it was reported that LRIPs 7 and 8 are to increase their orders by 40%.

(Jason Sherman, “LRIPs 7, 8 to jump 40%,” Inside the Navy (1/09/12).

The key driver in this upsurge is foreign orders.  Mentioned in the report are buys from Japan, Turkey and not mentioned in the report are other forthcoming buys from abroad.

This could not happen unless the plane was ready to be built now, a constant problem for analysts and some officials to get about the F-35 production process.  Recently, Second Line of Defense did its annual visit to the F-35 production line to get an update on the state of play seen from the FACTORY floor.

During this visit, Second Line of Defense sat down with Frank Dougherty, the vice president for production of the F-35 and with Tom Carrubba, Director of the F-35 production system.

The full interviews will be up soon, but from the visit to the plant several base line realities were evident.  The plant is in the process of producing 4 planes per month but could ramp up to 10 with a relatively short time.  The plan in place would drop the factory to 2 a month after the 4 for month production cycle.

The plane is a software upgradeable aircraft – with chips and cards – so unlike legacy aircraft can be built now because in a real sense the software will never be done on the aircraft as operations and con-ops evolve.  But significant hardware changes will not be necessary as the software is upgraded.

In this video slice from the interview, Frank Dougherty discussed the centrality of manufacturability for the F-35 program.

The Japanese downselect was important for many reasons, but notably was a real vote in confidence in both the production process and the inherent technological capabilities of the aircraft as a weapon system.

The foreign partners are, of course, not simply buyers but are inherent developers and producers of the aircraft. In this video slice from the interview, Carrubba provides a succinct explanation of the Italian role, from the standpoint of one who manages the production process.

Frank Dougherty then expanded on the concept of global production for the F-35 seen in this video clip from the interview.