BAE Systems built jet set for UK debut

The F35 Lightning, which is part-built in Lancashire is to make its air show debuts this year.
The F35 Lightning, which is part-built in Lancashire is to make its air show debuts this year.
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Plane spotters will be on high alert as the UK’s next generation combat aircraft flies in to the country today ahead of a busy air show schedule.

The F35 Lightning II, due in today from the USA, will make its debut at two major shows this summer – the Royal International Air Tattoo on July 8 and the Farnborough air show the week after.

The rear fuselage of every F-35 Lightning II aircraft built are manufactured and assembled at BAE Systems facility in Samlesbury.

The site also manufactures horizontal and vertical tails for the stealthy jets, which are due to go in to service in the UK in 2018.

Cliff Robson, senior vice-president for the F-35 programme at BAE Systems, said seeing the jet in action would be a proud moment for 1,500-plus people involved.

He said: “A real F-35 looks like a full-scale replica because there are no sharp edges due to its low observable capability, and it just looks like a futuristic jet.

“You can see it’s a step-change from all previous jets that have gone before it so to have it displaying for the first time in the United Kingdom at RIAT, and then Farnborough, is a really big moment.”

BAE Systems expects to produce 63 fuselage units at its facility in Lancashire this year, which is expected to rise to over 80 in 2017 and keep on rising to a peak of 160 per year by 2020, when it expects to employ around 2,000 people on the programme.

Since it joined the F-35 Lightning II programme in 1997, the company has invested more than £150m in the development of major infrastructure to build world-leading machining and assembly facilities at Samlesbury.