Northrop Grumman has increased the centre fuselages production interval (PI) for the F-35 Lightning II programme, to focus on affordability.

The new three-day PI, which is down from the four-day PI, will allow the company to manufacture a centre fuselage within ten months when compared to the approximately 11 months required currently.

Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems vice president and F-35 programme manager Brian Chappel said: "This increase in tempo on our F-35 Integrated Assembly Line (IAL) is part of a coordinated, pre-planned effort by Northrop Grumman and its suppliers to help meet rising F-35 production requirements.

"It also reflects our steady progress increasing the efficiency of the production line, and the size and skills of our workforce."

"This increase in tempo on our F-35 Integrated Assembly Line (IAL) is part of a coordinated, pre-planned effort to help meet rising F-35 production requirements."

The PI indicates the average number of work days between starts or completions of centre fuselage.

In August, Northrop started producing the centre fuselage for the tenth F-35B variant for the UK, BK-10, with a shorter PI.

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According to Chappel, Northrop’s final activities under the four-day PI was the completion of the 200th centre fuselage, AF-97, which delivered in July 29. AF-97 is the 97th F-35A variant for the US Air Force.

Under the F-35 full-rate production plan, Northrop is expected to drop IAL to approximately 1.5 work days in 2018.

Northrop’s IAL makes heavy use of robotics and automation and it allows the company to produce F-35 center fuselages with better levels of engineering precision, quality and manufacturing efficiency.

Image: Northrop Grumman quality team performs final inspection of AF-97, the 200th F-35 centre fuselage produced by the company at its Palmdale Aircraft Integration Center of Excellence. Photo: courtesy of Northrop Grumman Corporation.