Lockheed Martin to Expand F-35 Production

New facility to produce components for state-of-the-art fighter.

Lockheed Martin opened an expanded manufacturing facility that will help increase production of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter—one of the most versatile and in-demand military jets in the world.

The facility in Pinellas Park, Fla., will assemble canopies and bulkheads for the F-35 Lightning II. It adds 65,500 square feet of manufacturing and office space to the existing facility and is expected to begin producing parts by mid-summer. In 2018 alone, the facility will deliver more than 200 components to support production of new fighters and maintenance of the existing F-35 fleet. Pinellas Park is part of a network of manufacturers and suppliers across the United States—and the world.

The canopies and bulkheads will be transported to Lockheed Martin’s main F-35 production facility in Fort Worth, Texas, where more than 300,000 individual parts are brought under the same roof to create the aircraft. The Fort Worth facility operates on flow-to-takt manufacturing: the movement of component assemblies—such as wings, fuselage sections, and canopies and bulkheads from Pinellas Park—from one build station to the next at a pace that matches the delivery rate of these parts.

Flow-to-takt synchronizes parts delivery, timing of tasks and positioning of personnel in a consistent rhythm that increases efficiencies and lowers costs. It has reduced the time it takes to build an F-35 by nearly half, which should be seen as good news for a controversial and oft-delayed production program.

Demand for the aircraft has increased despite cost overruns and production delays. Each fighter jet costs between $100 and $120 million to produce, but those costs are expected to lower. The fighter recently completed a comprehensive flight test program.

The F-35 is the most advanced warplane ever produced, featuring stealth technology, advanced sensors, and versatile weapons capacity and range. It is not only a powerful weapon, but also collects, analyzes and shares data with other fighters and forces.

Read more about the demand for advanced fighter jets at Japan Wants a Fifth-Gen Fighter — Will the U.S. Help?