Quickstep signs landmark JSF deal with Northrop Grumman, shifts operations to Sydney

written by australianaviation.com.au | February 2, 2011
Northrop Grumman's Dr Ram Ramkumar and Quickstep's Philippe Odouard.

Quickstep has signed a Long Term Agreement (LTA) with Northrop Grumman which will see it manufacture F-35 Joint Strike Fighter components at Bankstown in Sydney worth $700 million over the next 20 years.

The LTA, signed in Sydney on February 2, will see Quickstep deliver the first JSF parts by 2012, with a projected annual turnover from the agreement of around $50 million by 2015.  Quickstep will supply up to 16 different JSF components, including lower side skins, maintenance access panels, fuel tank covers, lower skins and in-board weapons bay doors, projected to amount to some 36,000 plus parts over the life of the program. The LTA will see annual purchase orders placed with Quickstep, with further manufacturing contracts expected to be awarded thereafter.

“This LTA gets us a step closer to meeting our F-35 industrial participation commitment to the government of Australia,” Northrop Grumman’s director of F-35 international programs, Dr Ram Ramkumar, said. “We look forward to Quickstep’s involvement in the JSF program, and their production of F-35 composites subassemblies that will be delivered to our assembly operations in Palmdale, California.”

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The components will be manufactured at a new manufacturing facility Quickstep is to establish at Boeing Aerostructures Australia’s (formerly Hawker de Havilland) Bankstown Airport plant, following the signing of a 10 year lease for over 4200sqm of buildings. This will see Quickstep move in a staged transition from its current West Australian facility to Bankstown, including the transfer of R&D programs involving the company’s proprietary ‘Quickstep Process’ composites manufacturing technology. Quickstep is taking over an unspecified number of Boeing’s skilled Bankstown workforce, many of whom have experience working with advanced composites, and will offer its WA based employees the chance to relocate to Sydney, with initial staff members to move to Bankstown in early 2011 ready for manufacturing by the end of the year.

Quickstep chief executive Philippe Odouard described the LTA with Northrop Grumman as a “historic day for the company”, signalling “a genuine quantum shift in Quickstep’s development.”

“The international defence industry has perhaps one of the highest barriers to entry of any industry in the world but, for companies that are successful, the contracts are generally large scale and long term. Quickstep has now earned its place as a supplier for JSF, and we hope many additional aerospace and defence contracts will soon follow,” Odouard said, adding that the NSW state government had also “provided invaluable assistance to facilitate” Quickstep’s move to the former Boeing site at Bankstown, as well as providing access to a strong network of specialist skill sets along the east coast.

Defence Materiel Minister Jason Clare noted that Quickstep’s landmark deal as a partner in the JSF program was an example of “how Australian businesses can participate in this major international development initiative.” $10 million in assistance was also provided by the federal government as an incentive to lure Quickstep to Bankstown. “The Joint Strike Fighter is a long range stealth fighter. It’s the future of fighter planes and part of that will be made here in Bankstown,” Clare said.

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In addition to Quickstep’s LTA with Northrop Grumman, Clare announced the signing of a Global Supply Deed with Lockheed Martin, which would “put in place a team of people dedicated to finding opportunities for Australian companies on top of the JSF project. It’s a chance for Australian companies to take their expertise to the world,” he said.

Australia has already committed to buying an initial 14 F-35 JSFs, while a government decision to acquire at least 58 more to form the first three operational squadrons and a training unit is expected to be made in 2012.

The Quickstep LTA is the first of several agreements which will follow the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) Quickstep signed in November 2009 with JSF prime contractor Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman, which is one of the principal F-35 subcontractors.

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