F-35 production is slated to hit full steam in 2019, and Lockheed Martin is reshaping its final assembly line to get ready. Earlier plans called for full production by now, but that was delayed by problems that ultimately added billions of dollars to the cost. But now, production is poised to explode. This year, Lockheed will build 53 F-35s here and at another assembly facility in Italy, pushing the worldwide total past 200. That’s more than the Air Force has F-22 Raptors.
Lockheed and its partners are eyeing new manufacturing techniques that they hope could trim $10 million from each plane’s price tag, bringing it to $80 million by 2019. (The Pentagon says each one currently costs $100 million.) Collectively, Lockheed, Northrop and BAE have invested $132 million to help reduce the cost of the planes, Rein said.
For example, Lockheed is experimenting with a new way to drill the F-35’s wings. Currently, water and oil are used to cool a robotic drill bit so it doesn’t overheat and break. It’s a messy process, with fluid dripping down each wing. The new way uses cryogenic machining — essentially, freezing the drill bit beforehand instead of cooling it as it goes, Rein said. The company spent $119,000 testing the process, which it says will save $400,000 per jet, saving $12 million over the life of the program.
SOURCE – Defense One
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