Tail end of the manufacturing for F-35 jet

Posted on 22 Jul 2013

A new production line for the assembly of horizontal and vertical tails for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is installed and running, with a target peak production rate of one set every day.

BAE Systems in Samlesbury has extended the new monorail system for the F-35 assembly line to feed the manufacture of tails for the fighter aircraft. Manufacturer of the aft sections currently uses this process and the extension links the two lines.

The first tails in jig on the line belong to aircraft number AF57, a Conventional Take Off and Landing variant of F-35 built for the United States. Following machining operations, the tails will pulse through a series of three stations during which sealants are applied followed by two carbon skins, a stage known as ‘structural wet assembly.

At peak production tails will move down the line at a rate of one completed set every day.
The line is the latest stage in the transformation of the Samlesbury factory where the rear fuselage, horizontal tails and vertical tails for the F-35 jet are produced.

The new production line for the tails, or empennage, is built on the same lean principles as the rear fuselage line and allows more units to be produced more efficiently than before. Both lines feature an overhead monorail system which ‘pulses’ parts down the line for all three types of F-35 aircraft (Conventional, STOVL and Carrier variant).

“The empennage line is a major step forward in the transformation of this facility,” said Andy Higgins, manufacturing director of the facility.

“Since we opened an extension to the facility, doubling its size to 18,300m in March 2012 we’ve maintained our commitments to deliver against a demanding production schedule while implementing new manufacturing techniques at the same time. The team has done a remarkable job to make the transition happen smoothly.”
With the structural wet assembly line now operational, work continues to install the pre-machining element of the line which will complete the new facility in early 2014.

More than 500 UK companies are involved in the F-35 Lightning II programme, building 15% of the value of of each F-35 produced.

Over the next 40-years, UK industry will continue to play a vital role in the F-35’s global production, follow-on development and sustainment, bringing strong economic benefits to the country and generating tens of thousands of jobs.