On 24 December, Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) inaugurated a new production line for wing skins for the F-35 LIGHTNING II. The IAI board approved the construction programme in 2015, following Lockheed Martin’s decision to expand skins production and its selection of IAI as the responsible manufacturing subcontractor. The first shipments will be of some 700 kits, with the potential for additional orders at a later stage.
The skins will be manufactured using Automatic Fiber Placement (AFP) technology, which involves layers of 3mm threads of composite materials that become a cohesive unit, thus forming the special wing skin that offers the aircraft’s stealth characteristics.
The establishment of the new production line embodies a significant improvement of IAI’s automation and robotics capabilities, allowing it to become a key player in the military and commercial aero structures field.
“The inauguration of the F-35 wings skin production line is a significant milestone in realising IAI’s strategy of building advanced capabilities in composite material production. The new production line opens the door for IAI to become a member of an exclusive club of aerospace companies offering this capability,” explained IAI Executive Vice President and General Manager of the Commercial Aircraft Group, Shlomi Karako.
“Expanding IAI’s operations to the F-35 programme underlines the level of trust Lockheed Martin places in the Israeli industry. The precision, technological elements, personnel and the quality of production required for the skins of the F-35’s wings must abide by the highest standards. IAI has proven its capabilities with hundreds of wings so far and we look forward to experiencing the same excellence with the upcoming skins production. This is another stage in the comprehensive production of wings for the F-35 aircraft,” added Lockheed Martin Israel CEO, Joshua Shani.