Rheinmetall and US-based Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin have begun construction of a state-of-the-art factory for the F-35 Lightning II fighter aircraft center fuselage.
On 1 August 2023, a ground-breaking ceremony took place at the Weeze Airport site in the Kleve district of western Germany. It was attended by Hendrik Wüst, governor of the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia. Numerous other guests from the world of politics, civil society, the armed forces and industry also took part, including Mona Neubaur, the minister for economic affairs, industry, climate protection and energy of North Rhine-Westphalia; Vice Admiral Carsten Stawitzki, chief of the equipment division in the German ministry of defence; Lieutenant General Ingo Gerhartz, supreme commander of the German Air Force; and Annette Lehnigk-Emden, head of the Federal Office of Equipment, Information Technology and In-Service Support, the German procurement agency, and US Consul General NRW Pauline Kao.
The world’s top-performing warplane, the F-35 Lightning II is now being procured by the German Air Force. Rheinmetall is investing more than €100 million to build a cutting-edge production facility. Featuring state-of-the-art technology developed and used by Northrop Grumman in producing the F-35 center fuselage at the company’s facility in Palmdale, California, the planned factory will be operated under the auspices of Rheinmetall Aviation Services GmbH. It will have 30,000 square metres of production space. Over 400 highly skilled staff will crew the ultramodern plant, which will also include logistics and warehouse facilities, research and test centres, classrooms and quality control units.
This effort represents the standup of a second source for F-35 center fuselages, allowing Northrop Grumman and Rheinmetall to jointly produce up to 185 center sections annually. The Weeze plant is due to produce at least 400 F-35 fuselage sections for the air forces of Germany and other friendly nations. An integrated technology group, Rheinmetall will be drawing here on its extensive experience in fabricating sophisticated components as well as in the aviation domain. Production is expected to begin in 2025.
Rheinmetall will also be including other companies with relevant technical capabilities in the F-35 programme, creating or securing numerous jobs in various sectors.
With the F-35 factory here in Weeze, we are creating a new nucleus for aerospace technology in North Rhine-Westphalia and opening a new chapter in German-American cooperation.
The F-35 Lightning II is a core element of Western security preparedness. Just as the former Royal Air Force base at Weeze was a pillar of NATO air defence during the Cold War, the Rheinmetall factory in Weeze is destined to play a significant role for NATO’s F-35 user nations. We are aware of this responsibility and will do everything in our power to ensure that our F-35 fuselage production is a success.
Armin Papperger, Rheinmetall CEO
The proven success of our Integrated Assembly Line helps to ensure that Northrop Grumman affordably manufactures a next-generation aircraft that meets the needs of a growing number of international customers.
Combined with Rheinmetall’s experience with German Armed Forces and European industry, the collaboration with Rheinmetall and Lockheed Martin will foster critical skills and energize the region’s economy with high-tech job opportunities.
Tom Jones, corporate vice president and president, Northrop Grumman Aeronautics Systems