Stork Applies High Performance Machining to Titanium, Wins Another F-35 JSF Contract
On November 17, 2006, Stork Aerospace N.V. of the Netherlands and U.S. firm Pratt & Whitney announced an agreement for the production development of components for the new P&W F135 jet engine, one of the two interchangeable engines that will power the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. This agreement involves new High Performance Machining (HPM) technology for titanium components, and represents a breakthrough in titanium machining as an advanced and efficient production technology for aircraft jet engines.
High Speed Machining (HSM) is a production technology for components by means of the machining of solid aluminum to create the desired final form and dimensions. It creates weight savings, consistent quality and substantial cost savings through the elimination of sub-assembly work. HPM is a further development of HSM that works with harder materials like titanium. This allows for a number of improvements, including:
- Demonstrable quality improvements
- Cost reductions and
- Shorter cycle times for a number of critical F135 subsystems, including the exhaust nozzles.
Pratt & Whitney is the lead propulsion system contractor for the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The F135 (an evolution of the F119 jet engine for the F/A-22 Raptor, but without the same vectored thrust capabilities) will power all versions of the JSF during the aircraft’s initial flights, until 2011-2013. By that time the GE/Rolls-Royce F136 engine will also be available as a completely interchangeable choice for all JSF customers.
The value of the agreement is only $1.25 million in the System Development Demonstration phase, but there is a potential (not yet contracted) value of some $200 million through the life of the program. The final production will not only be handled by Stork, but will also extensively involve the aircraft industry supply chain in the Netherlands.
Cost issues and new technologies are creating strong pressure to develop and implement cutting-edge techniques and technologies that improve defense industry manufacturing. Machining is one of the three centers of competence for Stork Aerospace, and the true value of this order really lies the breakthrough of a new production technology for aircraft jet engines. Stork NV’s release notes that spin-offs to other products, applications and sectors are expected.
Stork also has a wiring contract for the F-35 JSF that has grown to $315 million. Wiring is another key competency for the firm, and their work with 737-based commercial aircraft and the 737 “Wedgetail” AWACS aircraft recently landed them a wiring contract from Boeing for the 737-based P-8A Multimission Maritime Aircraft program. The contract is currently valued at approximately $12 million over 4 years.