Manufacturing work has started at BAE Samlesbury on the first F-35 Lightning II aircraft that will be delivered to the UK Ministry of Defence.
Quentin Davies, UK Minister of Defence Equipment and Support, marked the occasion by signing the F-35 frame before it was loaded into the assembly jig at the BAE Systems site in Samlesbury, Lancashire. The frame will come out of the jig in Quarter 3 2010 as an assembled aft fuselage — part of the first UK F-35 Lightning II ever to be built. The UK Ministry of Defence has committed to the purchase of three aircraft to allow testing and training to take place before operational service.
The F-35 Lightning II is a fifth-generation fighter, combining advanced stealth with fighter speed and agility, fully fused sensor information, network-enabled operations, advanced sustainment, and lower operational and support costs.
Visiting BAE Systems’ Samlesbury site, Davies said: “Over the previous ten years, the main driver of economic growth in this country has been financial services. Over the next ten years I believe it is going to be manufacturing that is key to the future success of the British economy.”
BAE Systems is teamed with prime contractors Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman to deliver the F-35 Lightning II, the world’s largest defence programme. The aft fuselage and empennage — vertical and horizontal tails — for each F-35 are designed, engineered and manufactured by BAE Systems at Samlesbury using the latest digital design and precision manufacturing technologies, while the Company’s Structural & Dynamic Test facility at Brough, Yorkshire, will take the lead on Static and Fatigue testing for the F-35 programme.
The programme calls on BAE Systems global capabilities, with BAE Systems, Inc., in the US contributing key capabilities, including electronic warfare; advanced low observable apertures; advanced countermeasure systems; vehicle management computer and active inceptor systems.
Mick Ord, BAE Systems F-35 Managing Director, said: “The F-35 programme is essential to the sustainment of the UK aerospace manufacturing industry, so it’s great to have such support from the UK government. We are working hard with the UK MOD to ensure we provide the tremendous aircraft they require.”