Aircraft maker BAE Systems has begun work on a major extension to its state-of-the-art F-35 manufacturing facility to prepare the site for a significant ramp-up in production of the international fifth generation multi-role combat jet.
The 4,500m² expansion follows the UK Government’s recent commitment to 138 F-35 Lightning II STOVL variant aircraft for the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy.
We are proud of our role in the F-35 programme which will provide economic value to the region for decades to come
The Government is also accelerating procurement of the aircraft, making 24 available on the UK’s new Queen Elizabeth and Prince of Wales aircraft carriers by 2023.
The facilities expansion work at Samlesbury, due to be completed in January 2017, is the final part of a three-phase plan for the facility, which was originally opened in 2003 at a cost of £11m. When complete, it will be capable of manufacturing 160 aircraft sets per annum, an increase of around 250 per cent from current levels. Cliff Robson, Senior Vice-President for the F-35 Lightning II programme at BAE Systems, said: “The further extension to the site signals another important milestone in the F-35 programme and demonstrates BAE Systems’ readiness to meet the challenge of increased production rates.
“We are proud of our role in the F-35 programme which will provide economic value to the region for decades to come.
“We currently have 13 graduates working on the programme and have been particularly pleased to welcome five apprentices on to the programme in the last 12 months, with a further five due to complete by the end of the year, ensuring we train a pipeline of skills for the future.”
The planned expansion will provide more space for the aircraft tail assembly lines, test facilities and facilities to marry-up the two halves of each rear fuselage.
It will also see redevelopment of around 1,500m² of existing floor space.