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Global F-35 aircraft coalition builds unique collaboration network

Lockheed Martin Aeronautics

The world’s first truly international, integrated digital environment (IDE) supports the design, manufacture and sustainment of the Joint Strike Fighter F-35 aircraft

Collaboration challenge of unprecedented magnitude

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) aircraft is being built by a Lockheed Martin-led coalition of leading military aircraft manufacturers and suppliers around the world who must work as if they are one contiguous enterprise. The F-35 Program is designed to provide the United States’ Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps, and the United Kingdom’s Royal Navy and Royal Air Force with an affordable and stealthy tactical aircraft for the 21st century. Lockheed Martin Aeronautics (Lockheed Martin), which won the contract to produce the F-35, is developing an aircraft fleet that satisfies the diverse program requirements of the highest-profile program in the aerospace and defense industry’s history. Lockheed Martin’s strategy is to create a common design with affordable variants that meet the individual requirements of the different services.

Lockheed Martin is partnering with US and international aerospace leaders, including Northrop Grumman and BAE Systems. These three primary partners are supported by up to 600 suppliers. In all, the parties involved in the production of the F-35 reside in more than 30 countries, spanning 17 time zones. Coordinating their efforts and fostering collaboration across the extended enterprise of companies with dissimilar development environments is a critical challenge for Lockheed Martin. Similarly, managing all of the multiple formats of design data involved in this project is equally crucial. The program is expected to produce as many as 3,000 plus aircraft, which will have life spans of up to 30 years. All design and manufacturing data for each aircraft configuration must be managed as well as the data required to support the planes during their lifetimes. This means that every design change needs to be validated against all possible configurations. There is an additional challenge here as well: A key program goal is achieving unprecedented cycle time reductions in both design and manufacturing.

21st-century PLM solution for a 21st-century aircraft

The Lockheed Martin-led F-35 team turned to 21st-century product lifecycle management (PLM) technology to meet the challenges of delivering the next generation of military aircraft. Lockheed Martin has adopted Teamcenter® software as the foundation for a global collaboration network supporting the F-35 Program. Based on military and emerging industry standards, Teamcenter supports the special requirements of aerospace and defense companies by providing proven, industry-specific PLM capabilities. The tailored industry solution is built on Teamcenter’s open PLM foundation, which connects people and processes – creating, capturing and sharing product knowledge to power innovation and productivity. In order to connect the thousands of F-35 Program users, it was essential to have the scalability and robustness of Teamcenter.

The first phase of the F-35 Collaboration Network deployment linked 5,000 users at facilities owned by the three primary partners and Stork Fokker of the Netherlands. These users are connected to the system with appropriate security safeguards to ensure compliance with USA International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) requirements. Teamcenter rules ensure compliance with ITAR and proprietary control procedures. To date, more than 6,500 users across the extensive supplier network have also been brought online, totaling more than 130 sites worldwide (spanning seven countries and nine time zones). Most importantly, real time online collaboration is a reality for both engineering in-process and released designs, across five major partners and 35 design suppliers. Lockheed Martin sees this as a critical achievement on the program.

Complete tracking of every single part

With a storage area network (SAN) now containing more than five terabytes of product information, the Teamcenter implementation for the F-35 Program supports all users involved in design-related endeavors, including their workflow and design processes. The F-35’s worldwide design operations require the robustness of Teamcenter’s data replication capability. Program participants store data locally for improved response time – currently 70,000 data items are replicated across 15,000 locations daily with Teamcenter. With replication taking place on this massive scale, the F-35 Program is the largest user of Teamcenter’s replication capability in the world.

Lockheed Martin is currently managing the “As Designed,” “Manufacturing” or “As Planned,” and “As Built” bills of material inside of Teamcenter.

In addition to managing F-35 Program information, Teamcenter also manages a number of processes related to the aircraft’s development. For example, Teamcenter’s workflow capabilities are used by Lockheed Martin to control development and release processes. Teamcenter also manages product options and variants with its robust configuration management engine. Teamcenter’s visualization capabilities enable program participants to view digital mockups and perform interference checks throughout the entire design cycle.

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