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Aviation Week honors Northrop Grumman with the Laureate Award in Defense Manufacturing

Northrop Grumman Corporation is being recognized for revolutionizing the production of military aircraft through human ingenuity and advanced digital tooling technology within its F-35 Integrated Assembly Line (IAL).

Northrop Grumman’s Integrated Assembly Line (IAL) features a variety of digital tools such as the automated drilling system (ADS) that drills and countersinks more than 5,000 precision holes on each F-35 center fuselage. In addition, ADS features its own self-inspection probe powered by data analytics and sensors to measure for precision

Aviation Week honored Northrop Grumman with their 63rd Annual Laureate Award in Defense Manufacturing for increasing its center fuselage production from six to 15 deliveries per month. The center fuselage is the core structure of the F-35 Lightning II, which forms a significant portion of the aircraft internal weapons bay and internal fuel capacity.


“Our integrated assembly line is designed and built to manufacture at a very rapid pace,” said Glenn Masukawa, vice president and F-35 program manager, Northrop Grumman. “When a facility brings together talent, technology, and a sense of mission – it’s a winning formula for our people, our customers and ultimately, the warfighter. The IAL team continues to push boundaries and set the pace of military aircraft production through our integrated digital capabilities.”


Northrop Grumman’s IAL plays a significant role in the company’s approach to producing military aircraft, while addressing the customer’s vision for progress and innovation to build the next generation aircraft. The company recently delivered its 700th center fuselage in August 2020.


The advanced manufacturing capabilities of the IAL use digital tools to produce high-quality center fuselages on time. In June 2019, the IAL began completing a center fuselage every 30 hours.


Lockheed Martin is the industry lead for the F-35 program, and Northrop Grumman plays a key role in the development, modernization, sustainment and production of the F-35. In addition to producing the center fuselage and wing skins for the aircraft, the company develops, produces and maintains several sensor systems, avionics, mission systems and mission-planning software, pilot and maintainer training systems courseware, electronic warfare simulation test capability, and low-observable technologies.

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