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Lockheed Martin opens new smart manufacturing facility in California

US aerospace and weapons manufacturer Lockheed Martin has opened a new 215,000 square-foot smart manufacturing facility at its Skunk Works campus and headquarters in Palmdale, in California. It called the new production setup “intelligent” and “flexible”, and said it puts it in position to leverage IoT to “deliver cutting edge solutions rapidly and affordably”. The company will open three more smart manufacturing sites in the US this year.

The Lockheed Martin Skunk Works has produced the P-80 and F-117, the first jet fighter in the US and the first stealth fighter in the world, respectively. It has also produced the F-22, the world’s first fifth generation fighter plane, the firm noted. The manufacturing facility has a reputation, the company said, for “rapidly solving urgent national needs”. 

Advanced manufacturing – Lockheed Martin’s new facility at the Skunk Works in Palmdale, California

The new building, with room for 450 staff, incorporates three production priorities, the Maryland-based company said. It listed them as: “an intelligent factory framework; a technology enabled advanced manufacturing environment; and a flexible factory construct to support customer priorities with speed and agility while bolstering manufacturing in the US”. 

It is one of “four transformational manufacturing facilities” slated for 2021, and part of a $400 million investment in the Palmdale campus. A statement said: “Manufacturing artisans will work with digital tools to execute operations with maximum efficiency. The incorporation of robotics, artificial intelligence and augmented reality reduces the need for hard tooling, elevating the human experience to drive rapid innovation, a hallmark of the Skunk Works.”

Jeff Babione, vice president and general manager at Lockheed Martin Skunk Works, said: “Our partnership with the state [of California] has helped us remain competitive and has positioned us for long-term growth. The technology in our new Palmdale facility lets us go beyond manufacturing optimization to the next digital revolution, driving innovation and preserving California’s leadership in the aerospace industry.”

There was no mention of cellular technology in the press release. Lockheed Martin appointed NEC in March to help it to apply artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) for system diagnostics in the production and operation of spacecraft. At the same time, plans are emerging for the company to raise a satellite-based 5G network to remote control its global weaponry.

The work with NEC covers applications on NASA’s new Orion spaceship, built by Lockheed Martin and transferred to NASA in January, to take astronauts into deep space, including for the Artemis mission to the Moon and Mars. The latter, around satellite 5G for military systems, follows the appointment of former American Tower boss James Taiclet and the award of a $188 million contract with the Space Development Agency (SDA) to launch satellite-based cellular.

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