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Foster-Miller has received a five-year, $9.5 million contract to develop and produce lightweight fiber composite components for use by the F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet fighter and Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle (UCAV) programs.
The contract is one of the first awards from the Challenge Program that is administered by the Secretary of Defense/Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization Office. The initiative is being funded by the Naval Air Systems Command Aircraft Division (NAVAIR) in Lakehurst, NJ, as a Phase III Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) contract.
The initial funding of $4.2 million will be used to develop an automated, high-speed production line that will manufacture conformal fiber composite stiffeners used to strengthen panels and skins of the F/A-18 E/F fighter. This new Foster-Miller process is expected to replace the current costly, labor-intensive process for producing stiffeners by 2005. Foster-Miller expects to open a new 2,500 square foot manufacturing facility in Waltham by December 1, 2003 as a result of this program.
“This award is a true product of government-industry collaboration,” said Jay Boyce, Senior Vice President of Foster-Miller. “Under the guidance of NAVAIR engineers and our aerospace company partners, our composites team has brought forth technology which will enable an enormous reduction in labor and the number of manufacturing operations associated with the production of stiffening elements. This will enable faster production of composite stiffeners that are of consistent quality and durability, resulting in a significant cost reduction for the end product.”
This new stiffener manufacturing capability will result in major production cost savings for stiffeners on the F/A-18E/F fighter as well as other future military and commercial aircraft.
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