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10 The PCB Magazine • September 2016 Electronic subsystems are an integral part of all modern military fighter jets, with a substan- tial portion of the electronics supporting intel- ligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) systems, electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR), avion- ics, munitions and radar related subassemblies. This equates to a very high content of PCBs and SMT assembly requirements. Let's explore recent market developments that bode well for ITAR-certified, domestic PCB and electronics contract manufacturers, partic- ularly for those subcontractors participating on the F-35 and F-16 platforms. In early August, after 15 years on contract— and amid considerable scrutiny and conster- nation over the seemingly never-ending tech- nological development issues and cost over- runs—the United States Air Force declared its first squadron of Lockheed Mar- tin's Lightning II F-35A Joint Strike Fighters as "Ready for Combat." "Ready for Combat" status is officially known as Initial Operational Capability (IOC) confirmation. Previously, on July 31, 2015, the United States Marines also advised of IOC status for their F35B variant Joint Strike Fighter. The Air Force F-35A variant IOC proclama- tion [1] is especially noteworthy as the Air Force is the single largest customer of the Joint Strike Fighter and plans to procure 1,763 of the F-35A fighter jets. There are three variants of the F35 platform: the F-35A conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL) Air Force variant; the F-35B short take- off/vertical landing (STOVL) Marine Corps vari- ant; and the F-35C Navy carrier variant (CV). The variants are primarily distinguished by their take-off and landing capabilities. Through my business activities and general market knowledge, I am aware of at least 20 PCB fabricators and electronic contract manufactur- ers that have participated for many years on the F-35 program—either through their work direct- ly for the prime, Lockheed Martin, or through the many subcontractors supporting different electronics systems that are integrated into the F-35 platform. Primary subcontrac- tors for electronic subsystems on the F-35 platform include Northrop Grumman and BAE Systems. It is impor- tant to note that participation in the military sector is very certification-driven. The bar- riers for entry from both a certifica- tion and capital expenditure standpoint, at both the bare printed circuit board and circuit card assembly level, are understandably high in support of our nation's warfighters. There are currently only a handful of PCB fabri- John Vaughan ZENTECH MANUFACTURING F-35 Declared Combat-Ready FEATURE COLUMN: MIL/AERO MARKETS

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