PALMDALE, Calif., April 26, 2005 (PRIMEZONE) -- Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE:NOC) has completed the first major component of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, demonstrating manufacturing concepts that will become critical once initial production begins in 2007.

The center fuselage was delivered on-time to F-35 prime contractor Lockheed Martin during a ceremony on April 23 and will be shipped to Fort Worth, Texas, on May 2 for the beginning of the aircraft's final assembly.

"With the completion of the center fuselage, the first major aircraft component to be assembled, the F-35 team has ushered in a new era for aircraft production that incorporates advanced technologies and cutting-edge manufacturing techniques into what will be a unique continuous moving-line process," said Scott Seymour, corporate vice president and president Northrop Grumman Integrated Systems. "Northrop Grumman's F-35 work leverages decades of experience in advanced tactical fighters, long-range strike aircraft and the integration of systems such as the F/A-18, B-2 and Global Hawk."

The company's assembly line in Palmdale, Calif., integrates advanced 3-D modeling techniques, state-of-the-art fabrication and tooling equipment and a factory layout similar to that of the automotive industry to support the F-35's rigorous production schedule.

The 12-month assembly process began in May 2004 on the upper subassembly with the drilling, counter-sinking and assembly of the inlet ducts. New technologies developed by Northrop Grumman allowed each duct, made entirely from composite materials, to be assembled as a single structure instead of from numerous pieces. The ducts were then mated to the upper portion of the center fuselage, the first fuel tanks were sealed, the system components were installed and pressure and leak tests were successfully accomplished.

In parallel, the lower subassembly, built of aluminum and titanium frames and keel components, was manufactured. In early January 2005, the two structures were mated and the center fuselage was structurally complete.

Final systems installation and testing of hydraulics, actuated doors, the power thermal management system and wire harnesses completed the assembly.

"Innovative design and outstanding craftsmanship, brought together by the thousands of aerospace experts from Northrop Grumman and its suppliers from around the world, were instrumental in the development of this shipset," said Janis Pamiljans, vice president and F-35 program manager, Northrop Grumman Integrated Systems. "The future of military aircraft design, manufacturing and supportability has been dramatically altered and everyone -- the F-35 team and our customers -- will benefit from these new processes."

The F-35 is a stealthy, supersonic multi-role fighter designed to replace a wide-range of aging fighter and strike aircraft. Three variants derived from a common design will ensure the F-35 meets the performance needs of the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Navy and allied defense forces worldwide, while staying within strict affordability targets.

Currently, U.S. and United Kingdom sales alone account for nearly 2,600 aircraft and the Pentagon expects additional foreign purchases to be in the thousands.

As a principal member of the Lockheed Martin team, Northrop Grumman plays a critical role in the development and demonstration of the F-35. The company's contributions total more than 25 percent of the aircraft and span five of its seven sectors. They range from integrating a major section of the aircraft's structure to producing key avionics and communications subsystems to developing mission-planning software and training systems. Working as an integrated team with its customers, teammates and suppliers, Northrop Grumman delivers products that help make the F-35 the world's most advanced multi-role, stealthy combat aircraft.

In addition to Integrated Systems, four other Northrop Grumman sectors support the F-35 program: the Electronic Systems sector provides the fire control radar and, in joint efforts with Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control, is developing the electro-optical distributed aperture system and the electro-optical targeting system; the Mission Systems sector provides system and software engineering support for the mission planning system; the Space Technology sector provides the integrated communications, navigation and identification avionics suite; and the Information Technology sector, in joint efforts with Lockheed Martin Simulation, Training and Support, provides training management software.

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 more than 125,000 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
          Northrop Grumman Integrated Systems
          (703) 898-5353