BERLIN—Following Germany’s decision to acquire 35 F-35 fighter jets to replace its aging Tornados, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and German defense contractor Rheinmetall have agreed to establish a second F-35 center fuselage integrated assembly line (IAL) in Germany.

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

“The F-35 program will continue to strengthen our strategic partnerships with key industry partners for years to come,” says Mike Shoemaker, vice president of F-35 Customer Programs at Lockheed. “F-35 center fuselage production in Germany will be vital to meet the growing global demand for F-35s.”

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

“The center 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,” says Glenn Masukawa, vice president and F-35 program manager for Northrop. “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 Germany and create jobs in aerospace manufacturing.