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Sunday, Jun 4, 2023

Fighter Jet Helps Revive Area Aerospace

Fighter Jet Helps Revive Area Aerospace By SLAV KANDYBA Staff Reporter The next generation military fighter jet has brought a boost in business to more than a dozen manufacturers in the greater San Fernando Valley. The F/A-22 Raptor is the U.S. Air Force’s newest fighter jet, a stealthy military aircraft that can conduct air-to-air operations as well as air-to-ground. There are “firm orders for 83 Raptors,” said Greg A. Caires, a spokesman for Lockheed Martin, the giant defense contractor that is manufacturing the F/A-22. Production started in 1999, and since then 27 jets have been delivered and 33 additional aircraft were billed. The Air Force has a requirement for at least 381 Raptors. “We expect another contract in late 2004 for 24 more jets, then for 26 in 2005,” Caires said. Although Lockheed is responsible for final assembly and testing of the aircraft, one of its chief competitors is getting a piece of the F/A-22 Raptor action as well. Woodland Hills-based Northrop Grumman’ Navigation Systems Division has supplied global positioning systems to Lockheed since 2000, said Northrop spokesman Don Barteld. In May, Lockheed awarded Navigation Systems a contract for 86 GPS units for the F/A-22 the value of which was $9 million, according to Northrop. The global positioning systems made by Northrop enable Raptor pilots to view aircraft altitude, velocity and exact position. Sylmar-based Sierracin, a manufacturer of aircraft glass, was contracted to outfit F/A-22s with canopy transparencies. According to Lockheed, the value of the contract which runs from 2001 to 2013 is more than $18 million. While for Northrop and Sierracin, some of the larger aerospace companies in the Valley, the F/A-22 orders constitute a small portion of overall business, the contracts mean more for smaller firms. Big business For instance, for Chatsworth-based DCX-CHOL Enterprises, New Vac Division, the $2 million contract to make cables for the F/A-22 make up about 25 percent of overall business, said Neil Castleman, the company’s president. New Vac has 75 employees at its 28,000-square-foot manufacturing plant in Chatsworth and manufactures cables. According to figures provided by Lockheed, New Vac was awarded a contract worth nearly $9 million from 2001 to 2013. But the contract is year-to year, and therefore, not fully guaranteed. According to Castleman, if the contract was multi-year, the U.S. government would be able to save up to 50 percent on the orders. Another company getting more business thanks to the F/A-22 is EFS Aerospace in Valencia, which is a division of Philadelphia-based Triumph Group. EFS is supplying “significant content” for the F/A-22 through a subcontract with Goodrich Co.’s Landing Gear division, which is manufacturing the F/A-22 landing gear, said Brian Barrett, EFS president. EFS is producing the landing gear actuation system, or the arm that controls the opening or the close of the gear, Barrett said. For EFS, the F/A-22 program is a large part of the military segment of the company, which is about half of its overall business. “On the military side it’s one of our major contracts,” Barrett said. “It’s a substantial portion of our total military production.” He declined to say how much the contract was worth. As part of the EFS contract, Lockheed required the company to cuts costs through implementation of lean manufacturing techniques. Lockheed paid for some of the costs of the training, which included a 40-hour class and involved about 25 percent of the employees. EFS turned to Gardena-based California Manufacturing Technology Center to have consultants teach the techniques of lean. Long-term rewards It was too early to expect results, Barrett said, but he said the training would be fruitful in the long-run. “The overall benefit should be significant, and will have long-term impact,” Barrett said. While the positive impact from the F/A-22 contracts is trickling down from the largest defense contractors in the Valley to the smallest, there is even more good news from Valley aerospace manufacturers, who appear to be recovering from their most recent economic downturn. According to the most recent forecast of the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp., the aerospace industry is expected to add more jobs in the second half of this year. Some of those new employees may very well be working on parts for the F/A-22. A spokesman at Chatsworth-based Solara Engineering, a machine shop that employs about 50 engineers, perhaps put it best: “I think that all of us are benefiting from the current and hopefully the increased volume of work from the F/A-22,” the spokesman said, asking that his name not be used.

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