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ATK lands $110 million contract for F-35 Lightning II

ATK lands $110 million contract for F-35 Lightning II

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Lockheed Martin has awarded a $110 million contract to aerospace and defense contractor ATK to produce composite components for the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter.

Lockheed Martin on Tuesday awarded a $110 million contract to aerospace and defense contractor ATK to produce composite components for low rate initial production of the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter.

The F-35 Lightning II is, of course, the U.S. military's fifth-generation fighter jet. Outside, it touts stealth abilities with fighter speed and agility; under the hood, it offers fully fused sensor information, network-enabled operations, advanced sustainment and lower overall operational and support costs.

Under the terms of the contract, ATK is tasked with manufacturing upper fixed aft skins for both the carrier variant (CV) and short-take off/vertical landing (STOVL) variant of the aircraft. The company is also responsible for upper access covers on the CV and conventional take-off and landing (CTOL) variant, as well as the upper access center covers for the STOVL variant.

To date, ATK has delivered to Lockheed 850 wing skin components for the F-35. The new contract will more than double its production rate, from three to eight ship sets per month.

ATK began F-35 production way back in October 2002 with a contract for 19 ship sets of the one-piece, 35-foot composite upper wing skin. In addition to the current contract, the company also manufactures the F-35's seven-piece upper wing skin, lower wing skins, engine nacelle skins, inlet ducts and upper wing strap.

The company uses automated fiber placement and more conventional hand lay-up techniques to manufacture the parts. ATK is known for pioneering the field in the early 1980s and today uses 11 fiber-placement machines and proprietary production processes that it says shortens the manufacturing cycle while still producing high quality, complex composite components.

Production will take place at ATK's Clearfield, Utah facility beginning in 2011. Production is scheduled to cease in 2015.

Photo: Lockheed Martin/Flickr

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Andrew Nusca

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Andrew Nusca is editor of SmartPlanet and an associate editor for ZDNet. Previously, he worked at Money, Men's Vogue and Popular Mechanics magazines. He holds degrees from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and New York University. He is based in New York but resides in Philadelphia. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure