Engineers in Lancashire are currently working with US counterparts on the latest stage in the progress of the F35 aircraft.
The F-35 Lightning, whose tail, rear fuselage and some wing parts are built at Samlesbury, is now undergoing weapons testing in the US ahead of the jet being declared ready for service with the RAF in 2018.
BAE Systems has a large team involved in the huge engineering programme to get the aircraft ready to enter service with its customers, including the UK.
Test flights have taken place to intergrate the Advanced Short Range Air-to-Air Missile and Paveway IV weapons at Edwards Air Force Base in California.
BAE Systems engineers will be analysing data on the air to air missile, which the Government this week announced was getting £184m backing for an up-dated version
The initial flights examined the impact of flying with weapons on the performance of the aircraft, and further mission systems flights will take place over the coming months.
A spokesman for BAE Systems said: “The F-35 Lightning II is due to enter service with the UK, both the RAF and the Royal Navy, in 2018 and this testing work is part of the programme to declare the aircraft as ‘combat ready’ for the UK.”
The F35 has enhanced stealth capabilities and comes in three variants including a short take off version which will be used on Britain’s two aircraft carriers currently under construction.
When it reaches peak production, the F35 programme will be worth some £1bn to UK industry alone, with an estimated 25,000 UK jobs sustained across more than 500 companies in the supply chain.