Quickstep signs contract for even more advanced F-35 composites

Quickstep Holdings has secured its second Long Term Agreement (LTA) with Northrop Grumman to manufacture parts for the international F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program, allowing the company to manufacture more complex parts for the aircrafts.

Quickstep, based in Perth, is an advanced composites manufacturer currently supplying parts for the defence and automotive industries. The parts are made using its patented ‘Quickstep Process’ – an ‘out of autoclave’ approach which provides a lightweight, strong product with a high-quality finish, according to Quickstep.

The company says its advanced composites parts are relatively quick to produce, and since they are might lighter than metal components, they provide fuel efficiency benefits when used to make vehicle parts.

The LTA, announced on Friday, covers production until 2020 of ‘Group 2’ JSF components, which are said to be more complex aircraft components that will be used in the main structure and supports of the F-35.

In order to secure the LTA for Group 2 parts manufacture, Quickstep was required to complete a rigorous qualification process and demonstrate its site was ready for production. The first purchase order for these parts is expected in July.

The latest LTA follows an LTA signed in February 2011 for ‘Group 1’ JSF components, for which manufacturing is now underway in Perth. According to Lockheed Martin’s F-35 programme manager, Tom Burbage, Quickstep’s service to date has been exemplary.

“One of our most innovative and critical suppliers, Quickstep Holdings, completed source inspection of their first F-35 production parts at their Perth facility. To date, Quickstep has met – and in many cases outperformed – all JSF delivery deadlines,” said Burbage.

“We don’t often get to recognise the excellent performance of our global supply chain, but there are many companies worldwide working very hard to make the F-35 successful. Thanks to all of them and a special well done to Quickstep.”

Friday’s announcement coincided with the launch of Quickstep’s new Bankstown facility, which comprises a 4,000-square-metre hangar with $15 million of manufacturing equipment and infrastructure, along with a 1,250-square-metre office, which now becomes Quickstep’s headquarters.

The new site is said to be the most advanced independent aerospace composites manufacturing facility in the southern hemisphere. It will begin production of advanced carbon fibre composites for the F-35 and the C130 Hercules in the fourth quarter of this year.