Major F-35 milestone passed by Fylde aircraft maker

An F-35 Lightning practising ramp take-offs ready for its use on the Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier
An F-35 Lightning practising ramp take-offs ready for its use on the Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier

Engineers at BAE Systems have hit a major milestone on the project to deliver the 5th generation warplanes which will fly from Britain’s naval flagship, the Queen Elizabeth.

The tailplane and rear fuselage, life support and crew escape systems for the F35 stealth fighters to be built for all customer countries are built in Lancashire.

Now, as the huge Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier arrived in Portsmouth after its first sea trials, the 318th rear section of the Lightning 2 has been handed over to the assembly plant at Fort Worth Texas from Lancashire.

It means that 10 per cent of the global requirement has now been produced of the world’s largest single defence programme.

The 318th aft fuselage will form part of a UK B model of the combat jet.

This variant has the short take-off and vertical landing capability which makes it ideal for Britain’s new Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers.

Andrea Thompson, F-35 Lightning II Director for BAE Systems Military Air and Information, said: “Reaching the 10 per cent mark of production on the F-35 programme shows how far we have come, but also highlights that there is an enormous amount of work still to do.

“With an order book of more than 3,000 aircraft for the global F-35 fleet, the investments we are making in our advanced manufacturing facilities are key to ensuring we continue to deliver on our commitments.

“To add to this, we are also working closely with our supply chain to ensure they are equipped to meet the ramp up in production at the same time as delivering against our existing commitments.”

Steve Over, Lockheed Martin’s director of F-35 international business development, flew in to BAE System’s plant at Warton to take a look at the training facility for UK pilots who will be using the F35 on the aircraft carrier.

He said: “I am delighted to be here for this milestone as the Queen Elizabeth arrives at Portsmouth. The F-35’s short take off and vertical landing technology owes a lot to the legacy of the Harrier and the expert engineering expertise that BA has developed.”