BAE Systems has completed and delivered the 50th rear fuselage, plus vertical and horizontal tails, on the F-35 fighter to Lockheed Martin in Texas.
Tim Boness, production director for the F-35 project commented on the small but arguably important milestone: “It sounds like a drop in the ocean, but we’ve come a long way since we started manufacturing back in 2004. We are ready to manufacture thousands more sets at our state of the art machining and assembly centre.”
The Samlesbury site has been heavily invested in over the past five years, and Boness explains that this indicates BAE Systems are very much interested in making the site a real investment for the future. To manufacture another 3,000 rear fuselages and empennages for Lockheed Martin, investment in the site is probably necessary.
“With production orders now moving through at a rate of three per month and the US Air Force flying the aircraft for themselves there is a real buzz in the air,” said Boness. He explained that the BAE System goal at Samlesbury was for the 1,200 employees working on the programme to be ready to meet the peak rate production of one aircraft set a day in 2016. “It’s a production challenge on a size and scale normally associated with commercial aircraft but we have a much more complex and advanced product,” he added.
Investment at Samlesbury continues with a world leading machining facility officially opened in October 2010 and the first of two planned extensions of the F-35 assembly facility due to be occupied later this year. BAE Systems’ investment isn’t limited to the Samlesbury site. Major investments have been made at various sites across the North-West.