Central Europe will produce much of the F-16’s physical structure

Poland, located in Central Europe [CE], has been entrusted with the task of manufacturing components for the renowned F-16 fighter jets, products of the United States. This noteworthy information was imparted by Mr. Janusz Zakretski, the esteemed director of the PZL Mielec plant, during an insightful conversation with the respected Polish publication PAP.

The director of PZL Mielec has formally announced the company’s ambitious objective to fabricate between 70 to 80 percent of the F-16 Block 70/72’s physical structure [fuselage] by the conclusion of the ensuing year. The director has emphasized that this intricate production process is conducted within the technologically advanced confines of PZL Mielec’s renovated workshop, a facility with a distinguished history of manufacturing military aircraft.

“It is indeed a commendable recognition of our workforce’s proficiency and the potential of this strategic location that Lockheed Martin has chosen to establish the production of F-16 structures here. This move not only signifies Lockheed Martin’s unwavering support for PZL Mielec’s growth but also underscores the industrial prowess of our nation.”

Central Europe will produce much of the F-16's physical structure
Photo by Alex R. Lloyd, USAF

Disturbed by the sound of the F-16

Previously, the civic administrators of the Polish metropolis, Radom, declared their intent to approach the Polish military and the Ministry of Defense. Their objective: is to seek clarity regarding the F-16 training flights. The cause of their concern stemmed from the unease experienced by the city’s inhabitants, who were alarmed by the sonic boom produced by the F-16s as they breached the sound barrier.

In light of Russia’s comprehensive military aggression against Ukraine, the Polish government has recognized the urgent necessity to fortify its armed forces. It has committed to a significant augmentation of its military personnel, aiming to expand the size of its armed forces to an impressive 300,000 troops. Additionally, an allocation of approximately 4 percent of the nation’s GDP for this year is earmarked for defense expenditure.

Central Europe will produce much of the F-16's physical structure
Photo credit: Lockheed Martin

What is the F-16’s fuselage?

The F-16 Block 70 fuselage is the main body of the aircraft that houses the cockpit, engine, and other critical components. It is designed to be lightweight, durable, and aerodynamic, allowing the aircraft to achieve high speeds and maneuverability.

The materials used in the F-16 Block 70 fuselage include advanced composites, such as carbon fiber and Kevlar. Aluminum alloys and titanium are also part of the used materials. These materials provide strength and stiffness while minimizing weight, which is critical for achieving high performance.

The F-16 Block 70 fuselage includes several key parts in its structure, including the skin, frames, longerons, bulkheads, and stringers. The skin is the outer surface of the fuselage, while the frames, longerons, and bulkheads provide the internal structure and support. The stringers are thin strips of material that run longitudinally along the fuselage, providing additional strength and stiffness.

Central Europe will produce much of the F-16's physical structure
Photo credit: Wikimedia

Briefly about Poland’s PZL Mielec

PZL Mielec is a Polish aerospace manufacturer that specializes in producing military and civilian aircraft. The company was founded in 1938 and has since become a major player in the aviation industry. It is located in the town of Mielec in southeastern Poland.

Over the years, PZL Mielec has produced a variety of weapons. For example the TS-11 Iskra jet trainer, the PZL-130 Orlik turboprop trainer, and the W-3 Sokol helicopter. The company has also produced parts for the F-16 Fighting Falcon. PZL Mielec also produced parts for the C-130 Hercules aircraft.

The production at PZL Mielec is an important part of Poland’s economy, as it provides jobs for thousands of people and contributes to the country’s defense capabilities. The company is owned by the Polish government and has partnerships with other major aerospace companies around the world. Its products are sold to customers in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.

Not just production for the F-16 in CE

There is a gradual shift unfolding in Central Europe [CE], as it progressively resumes its role as the prime location for the outsourced production of Lockheed Martin fighter jets. Rheinmetall has chosen the city of Weeze to produce fuselages for the F-35. At least 400 units are said to be produced. The city of Weeze is located in the Lower Rhine in western Germany. The 400 F-35 fuselages are expected to be produced by 2025.

Italy will assemble 24 of the 36 Swiss F-35 Lightning II stealth fighters
Photo credit: Info Aero Quebec

The establishment in question is far more than a mere manufacturing hub. It is serving also as a maintenance base for German F-35 fighter jets, as well as those owned by other allied nations. This newly inaugurated infrastructure supplants prior establishments in Turkey. They were expunged from the fighter jet program due to political contingencies. Thereby transposing production to German soil.

Italy will assemble 24 of the 36 Swiss F-35 Lightning II stealth fighters
Photo credit: Il Manifesto

Despite the allure of Turkey’s comparatively lower costs, particularly suited for labor-intensive manufacturing operations, a shift towards Germany appears less cost-effective on the surface. Nevertheless, it is a transition deemed necessary in the grand scheme of things.

‘Breath of air’

Presently, the production of the center fuselage for the F-35 is monopolized by Northrop Grumman, a prominent US military aircraft manufacturer. The establishment of an additional, albeit modestly scaled, production facility in Germany is projected to alleviate a pressing bottleneck issue. This bottleneck has been a significant impediment, thwarting the increase in delivery volumes of stealth fighters.


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