Rheinmetall has announced a partnership with Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman to build an ultra-modern factory at Weeze, in the Kleve district of the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, to produce fuselage sections for the F-35A Lightning II.
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This trilateral partnership is the next step in growing levels of defence industrial cooperation between Germany and the United States at a time of heightened tensions in Europe following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The new plant is due to produce at least 400 F-35A fuselage sections for the air forces of Germany and other friendly nations. An integrated technology group, Rheinmetall will be drawing on its extensive experience in fabricating sophisticated components as well as in the aviation domain, with production expected to commence in 2025.
Rheinmetall chief executive Armin Papperger welcomed this milestone announcement, saying, “We’re proud that our longstanding partnership with Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin and our decades-long relationship with the Bundeswehr is resulting in a genuine transfer of know-how to Germany.”
Glenn Masukawa, vice-president for Northrop Grumman’s F-35 program said, “Northrop Grumman will replicate our automated and manufacturing technologies of the integrated assembly line in Weeze. Combined with Rheinmetall’s capabilities, our collaboration with Lockheed Martin to manufacture the centre fuselage is critical in bolstering global security. We look forward to the success of this newest F-35 facility.”
Mike Shoemaker, vice-president of F-35 customer programs at Lockheed Martin echoed the comments by his Rheinmetall and Northrop Grumman counterparts, saying, “We are pleased with Rheinmetall’s swift site selection for the upcoming F-35 centre fuselage production facility. This marks an important milestone in the German F-35 program — this increase in capacity helps meet the growing global demand that further enables the F-35 to stay ahead of evolving threats in the 21st century landscape.
“Lockheed Martin is committed to fostering industry partnerships and creating jobs in Germany. We appreciate Rheinmetall’s role as an agile and flexible partner and look forward to continued collaboration,” Shoemaker added.
The factory will be 60,000 square feet, incorporating “state-of-the-art” technology and will employ 400 highly skilled people across the ultra-modern assembly line. In addition, the plant will include logistics and warehouse facilities, research and test centres, classrooms and quality control units.