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BAE opens Australia facility to make F-35 parts

Dec 06, 2013 | 12:14 PM | Frank Haflich

Tags  titanium, aerospace, F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, BAE Systems Plc, new plant, Australia, Lockheed Martin Corp., parts manufacture vertical fin

LOS ANGELES — BAE Systems Plc has opened a new facility in Australia dedicated to machining titanium parts for Lockheed Martin Corp.’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

The London-based aerospace company is making over 30 complex components for the vertical fin of the F-35 in Adelaide, Australia. The plane is assembled at the Fort Worth, Texas, operations of Lockheed Martin, Bethesda, Md.

Components are shipped by BAE to another Australian supplier to the program, Marand Precision Engineering. BAE said it started to ship the components earlier this year from its existing plants.

The new facility, whose total cost has been estimated at Australian $177 million ($160.4 million), includes a $10-million machining complex built by Switzerland-based Starrag Group that’s designed to produce thin-wall aerospace titanium components over 16 feet long. BAE said the machining capability is only the second of its kind installed in the world, and its installation involved 30 tonnes of reinforcing steel.

Moorabbin, Australia-based Marand Precision Engineering is in line to build two vertical tails for the F-35. BAE Systems will supply ship sets for these assemblies to Marand over the next 20 years.

About seven countries besides the United States have ordered F-35s so far, while at least two others are expected to decide early next year whether to buy the fighter.

BAE Systems is also looking for the new Australian facility to produce components for commercial aircraft and marine vessels, and is in discussions with U.S. firms about taking in new work, according to local reports. The government of South Australia is actively supporting expansion of its aircraft manufacturing industry.

Each F-35 is estimated to contain about 45,000 pounds of titanium buy weight. RTI International Metals Inc. is the program’s primary supplier of titanium mill products, although it is unknown if the Pittsburgh-based producer is supplying the titanium for the BAE’s Australian facility.

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