Quickstep Holdings - Passes key "toll-gate" review in Joint Strike Fighter development program

Key milestone towards signing of long term agreement ("LTA")

(PresseBox) ( Ottobrunn, )
- Quickstep passes key "Toll Gate" review set by Northrop Grumman for Manufacturing Readiness for composite components for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
- Overall rating of 80% achieved across all criteria covering 13 different categories and 160 items of evidence.
- Toll Gate Review allows Quickstep to start production of qualification panels and building block activities (manufacture of actual production parts) at its Coogee site in Western Australia.
- Toll Gate Review clears the way for final negotiation requirements prior to signing the LTA on the Northrop JSF contracts, valued at around $700m over 22 years.
- Despite rumours of delays to the JSF program in the US, ramp-up to full production is proceeding according to plan for first deliveries of production parts in early 2012.

Australian advanced composite component and solutions provider Quickstep Holdings Limited (ASX: QHL) is pleased to advise that it has achieved a key milestone with production preparations relating to the international Joint Strike Fighter program, today announcing that it has successfully passed the key "Toll Gate" review set by global aerospace corporation Northrop Grumman Corporation.

This Toll Gate is for Manufacturing Readiness for Group 1 composite parts at Quickstep's Coogee site in Western Australia and was required for Quickstep and Northrop to progress to final negotiations prior to signing the LTA.

It was held on-site between 18 and 20 October 2010 and was adjudicated by a Review Panel comprising key members of the Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin team.

The review process required Quickstep to demonstrate that it has processes, procedures and a trained workforce in place and to provide detailed evidence of the readiness of its equipment and facilities as well as an operational demonstration. Quickstep managers and personnel were questioned in detail by the Review Panel during the presentation.

The Toll Gate Criteria were divided into 13 different categories, with a total of 160 items of evidence presented during the Review.

Quickstep Chief Executive Mr Philippe Odouard said the first Toll Gate review had been highly successful, with the Company achieving an overall rating of 80% with no categories below 50% and most in the 70-90% range.

"For a start-up manufacturing facility this is an outstanding result, which has been achieved in exactly 12 months and on the date we said we would pass it - a great achievement by our staff and a reflection of the enormous dedication and hard work within our organisation," Mr Odouard said. "Typically, a review of this complexity and stringency would take a lot longer and it is a credit to our team that we have been able to meet all the key criteria on time in such a short space of time."

Mr Odouard said the completion of the Toll Gate review effectively gave the green light for the Company to move to the next stage by starting production of Qualification Panels and "building block" activity - that is, production of actual production parts for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter using tooling provided by Northrup Grumman to demonstrate production-readiness.

"This is a significant milestone for Quickstep as it demonstrates to Northrop that we are ready and able to deliver the first of the F-35 components and is the last of the capability barriers that stood in front of Quickstep and the signing of the LTA," he continued.

In addition to the Toll Gate Review, Quickstep has hosted multiple site visits by various Northrop Grumman staff and experts to assist in guiding the review and qualification process. Quickstep personnel have also successfully completed a Technical Assistance Training course in California at key Northrop Grumman sites for composite manufacture involving a number of Quickstep team members over two weeks.

The overall Development Program for the JSF manufacturing contracts continues to progress on schedule with agreed deadlines, milestones and now Toll Gates met. Discussions are scheduled to recommence shortly leading to signing of the final Long Term Agreement, with delivery of production parts for Quickstep on schedule in Q1 of 2012. This date has not moved in the past 12 months.
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