Key production milestone reached for F-35 Lightning II fighter jets

British engineers working on combat jets for the UK’s new aircraft carriers have reached a key production milestone of 10 per cent.

The 318th rear section for an F-35 Lightning II combat jet has come off the BAE Systems production line in Lancashire, meaning that 10 per cent of the global requirement has now been produced.

It is the back part of the state-of-the-art aircraft’s main body, and with more than 3,000 aircraft currently on order, it is predicted that 25,000 jobs will be sustained across the UK by over 500 companies in the supply chain when at peak production.

The rear section has now transferred from BAE Systems’ advanced manufacturing site to Lockheed Martin’s Final Assembly and Check Out line in Texas to be connected with other major assemblies to become one of three aircraft variants.The 318th aft fuselage in particular will form part of a UK ‘B’ model variant of the jet.

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

With HMS Queen Elizabeth set to enter her new home in Portsmouth, the F-35B jets are on track to make their first flight trials from her deck next year.

Harriett Baldwin, Minister for Defence, said: “This is an important milestone and the latest example of how the F-35 programme is benefitting the UK’s defence industry, creating thousands of jobs and helping to keep Britain safer and more secure.

“Britain is a leading partner in the development of the F-35, supporting not just the aircraft that will operate from RAF Marham and our two new Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers, but also the thousands of jets that will serve our allies around the world.”

Andrea Thompson, F-35 Lightning II Director for BAE Systems Military Air & 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.”

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