Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Rheinmetall sign Letter of Intent

Second F-35 fuselage integrated assembly line to be established in Germany

17 February 2023
F-35 (Copyright: Lockheed Martin)



Following Germany’s decision to acquire 35 F-35 fighter jets to replace its aging Tornados, agreement has been reached between Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Rheinmetall to establish a second F-35 centre fuselage integrated assembly line (IAL) in Germany.

The three companies signed a letter of intent to establish the centre, which will expand the significant role European industry plays in the F-35 programme. 

“The F-35 program will continue to strengthen our strategic partnerships with key industry partners for years to come,” said Mike Shoemaker, vice president of F-35 Customer Programmes at Lockheed Martin. “The F-35 centre fuselage production in Germany will be vital to meet the growing global demand for F-35s, which play a vital role in 21st-century security.”

Northrop Grumman is a principal partner on the Lockheed Martin F-35 programme. In addition to manufacturing the jet's centre fuselage and wing skins, the company is also responsible for developing, producing and maintaining sensor systems, avionics, and aircraft and training software.

“The centre fuselage IAL is recognized as a state-of-the-art facility supported by technologies exclusive to Northrop Grumman, seamlessly blending automation with our expertise in aerospace tooling,” said Glenn Masukawa, vice president and F-35 program manager, Northrop Grumman. “Engaging with Rheinmetall demonstrates our commitment to collaborate with international partners to manufacture advanced aircraft.”

German industry has contributed to the F-35 program since its inception in 2001. Lockheed Martin continues to actively explore additional industrial participation opportunities that will enable partnerships across the German industry and create jobs in 5th Generation fighter aircraft manufacturing, sustainment, training, research and development.

Rheinmetall brings experience both as an integrated technology group in the production of complex components and as an aviation-certified company to the cooperation.

“The long-standing partnership between Lockheed Martin and Rheinmetall, as well as the very close ties that have existed for decades between the Bundeswehr (German Armed Forces) and our company, lead to a genuine transfer of know-how to Germany as an industrial location,” said Armin Papperger, CEO of Rheinmetall AG. “Furthermore, this setup minimises risk by bringing in national partners that are involved in a tried-and-tested manner.”

To date, the F-35 operates from 37 bases and ships globally, with nine nations operating F-35s on their home soil. There are more than 890 F-35s in service today, with more than 1,890 pilots and 13,570 maintainers trained on the aircraft.