PALMDALE, Calif., May 19, 2004 (PRIMEZONE) -- Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE:NOC) has demonstrated its critical role in the development of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter by achieving two significant program milestones: starting assembly of the aircraft's center fuselage, and delivering a key avionics system to F-35 prime contractor Lockheed Martin two weeks ahead of schedule.

The F-35 is a stealthy, supersonic aircraft designed to replace a wide range of aging fighter and strike aircraft for the U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps, Royal Air Force and Royal Navy and allied defense forces worldwide.

As a principal subcontractor to Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman is responsible for producing more than 25 percent of the F-35 weapons system. The company's contribution ranges from integrating a major section of the aircraft's structure to producing key subsystems such as communications and avionics, and developing software for mission planning.

The company began the 12-month production process required to complete the center fuselage by installing an air inlet duct for the F-35's engine into an assembly fixture at its state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Palmdale. The duct, made entirely from composite materials, was fabricated as a single structure. Traditionally, aircraft inlet ducts have been assembled from several pieces. Northrop Grumman's Integrated Systems sector has responsibilities for the design, production and integration of the center fuselage.

"The world's most advanced multirole fighter is beginning to take shape," said Tom Burbage, Lockheed Martin executive vice president and general manager of the F-35 program. "The center fuselage incorporates an unprecedented combination of leading-edge technologies that will help make the F-35 like no other combat aircraft."

Northrop Grumman's work on the center fuselage includes integrating all the structure and subsystems. The company plans to deliver the first center fuselage in May 2005 to Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., Fort Worth, Texas, for final assembly.

Under contract to Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman's Space Technology sector is developing software-defined radios that provide more than 35 communications, navigation and identification (CNI) functions for the F-35. Software-defined radio technology will make the new avionics system considerably smaller and lighter than the single-function radios previously required to implement the same functions.

In late April, Space Technology delivered the first of these new CNI systems to the F-35 program. Lockheed Martin will use the unit, which represents the first significant delivery for the F-35 mission systems segment, for initial avionics integration and testing.

According to Frank Flores, Northrop Grumman's F-35 CNI program director, the early delivery of avionics is just one of several critical areas in which the team has met or exceeded F-35 program requirements. "Over the past year, we've reduced CNI system weight by 10 percent, unit recurring flyaway cost by 23 percent and power consumption by more than 22 percent," he said. "All of these achievements are helping to keep the program on schedule for its first flight."

"The F-35's center fuselage and CNI suite both reflect the engineering excellence and systems know-how that built this company," said Steve Briggs, Northrop Grumman vice president and F-35 program manager. "The fuselage design and the software-reconfigurable radios add performance and mission flexibility that help make the F-35 the world's most advanced multirole, stealth combat aircraft."

Northrop Grumman's disciplined design and manufacturing processes are also key to making the F-35 the most affordable aircraft for the United States and its allies, he added.

In addition to Integrated Systems and Space Technology, two other Northrop Grumman sectors support the F-35 program. Electronic Systems, Baltimore, Md., provides the fire control radar, the electro-optical distributed aperture system and, with Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control, the electro-optical targeting system. Mission Systems, Herndon, Va., provides system and software engineering support for the mission planning system.

Northrop Grumman Corporation is a global defense company headquartered in Los Angeles, Calif. Northrop Grumman provides technologically advanced, innovative products, services and solutions in systems integration, defense electronics, information technology, advanced aircraft, shipbuilding and space technology. With 120,000 employees, and operations in all 50 states and 25 countries, Northrop Grumman serves U.S. and international military, government and commercial customers.

  CONTACT: 
Louise Muniak (center fuselage)
(703) 898-5353
louise.muniak@ngc.com 

Sudi Bruni (CNI system)
(858) 592-3407
sudi.bruni@ngc.com