The F-35 Program and Defense Industrial Innovation: The Case of ITT Exelis


2013-06-23 One of the missing aspects in discussing the F-35 program is its impact on innovation in the defense industry.

A case in point is ITT Exelis which is opening a new facility, in part triggered by an F-35 contract.

But the composites to be built at this facility has a significant impact in making new composite production facilities available for other systems and platforms as well.

ITT Exelis has been awarded a multi-million dollar contract from Lockheed Martin to fabricate composite blade seal components for all variants of the F-35 Lightning II fighter aircraft program. 

Production of the blade seals will take place at the new Exelis Aerostructures composite design and manufacturing center in Salt Lake City, Utah. 

“Our expertise in fabricating complex, high-performance composite structures provides the highest-quality solutions at the best value for our customer,” says Mike Blair, vice president and general manager of the Exelis Aerostructures business. 

“With our commitment to operational excellence, we will maximise that value, offering the right processes more efficiently to meet our customer’s needs.”

This award will support F-35 Lightning II (Joint Strike Fighter) production for low rate initial production (LRIP) 6 and 7 through 2015.

To meet this demand and related demands,

ITT Exelis has opened its composite design and manufacturing center in Salt Lake City, Utah, US, which will provide increased capacity and enhanced automation capability for commercial and military composite aircraft structures. 

“Strong demand from our domestic and international customers has fueled this expansion,” says Jim Barber, vice president and general manager of the Exelis Electronic Systems Integrated Structures business. 

“This facility leverages our core strengths and capabilities as we invest in new technologies to meet the needs of our customers and the aerospace industry.”

Exelis has more than 40 years of experience in the design and manufacturing of composite structures and assemblies in Utah. Along with producing parts for military applications, such as the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and the Marine Corps’ heavy lift helicopter, the CH-53K, Exelis provides engines to GE for a wide variety of aircraft and vacuum tanks for several of the Boeing 7-series jets. 

With its new Salt Lake City facility, Exelis will be better positioned to meet customers’ growing needs for composites, which are used increasingly by airframers as an alternative to metal structural parts on commercial and military aircraft, as well as on unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).