The UK is the first international partner to have taken delivery of the first £70 million -per unit- F-35 Lightning II, (out of a confirmed order of 48 with an option for over 60 more) and the RAF and Royal Navy will now commence flight trials of the aircraft.
Speaking after the event Chris Allam, F-35 Lightning II Senior Vice President for BAE Systems, said: “This is an important day for the programme – and for us, we are another step closer to bringing F-35 into service. Today is also important for the 2,000+ BAE Systems employees who support this programme in the UK, where we build the aft fuselage and vertical and horizontal tails for all three variants of the aircraft, and for the many hundreds more of our people who make a contribution to the programme across our global operations.”
BAE Systems’ Chief Executive, Ian King, who was also at the event, commented: “Everyone who has worked on the programme, which involves employees from across our global operation, should be proud of the part they have played in getting to today – through the development and flight testing phase, into production and preparing for entry into service with the US, UK and other international partners’ air forces.”
Over 3,000 F-35 Lightning II aircraft stand to be produced, based on current requirements from the US and other international partners, with planned rates of production set to reach 200 per year (or one a day) by 2015.
Fifteen per cent of F-35 Lightning II work is carried out in the UK and over 130 British companies contribute to the supply chain. It is worth over £1Bn to UK industry each year and will support around 25,000 British jobs over the next 25 years.
The F-35B Lightning II will place the UK at the forefront of fighter technology, giving the Royal Air Force a true multi-role all weather, day and night capability, able to operate from well-established land bases, deployed locations or the Queen Elizabeth Class Aircraft Carriers.
Engines: Pratt & Whitney F-135-600
Armament: Paveway IV, AMRAAM, ASRAAM
Future Armament: Storm Shadow, SPEAR, METEOR, 25mm Gun Pod
The Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter will be known in UK service as the Lightning II. Lockheed Martin is the prime contractor but the UK is the only Level 1 partner with the US. A number of British companies, including BAE Systems and Rolls-Royce will have significant industrial work-share in construction and development of the aircraft. The Lightning II will provide UK Defence with a 5th Generation (low observable, supersonic, enhanced data fusion), multi-role, all weather, day and night aircraft that will have the ability to operate from land bases as well as the Queen Elizabeth Class carriers, the first of which is due to accept Lightning II onto her deck in 2018. This basing flexibility will give UK Defence a truly joint expeditionary Combat Air capability well into the 2030’s. The RAF is the lead service for the operation of Lightning II and, like the Harrier before, the Joint Lightning II Force will be manned by both RAF and RN personnel.
Lightning II has been designed from the outset to carry out a wide range of mission types, able to use its very low observable characteristics to penetrate Integrated Air Defence Systems and strike a number of types of targets. In a permissive environment, Lightning II is able to carry weapons on external pylons, as well as in the internal weapon bays. This will allow a maximum weapon payload of 6 Paveway IV, 2 AIM-120C AMRAAM, 2 AIM-132 ASRAAM and a missionised 25mm gun pod.
The Lightning II design applies stealth technology manufacturing techniques and, to minimise its radar signature, the airframe has identical sweep angles for the leading and trailing edges of the wings and tail, and incorporates sloping sides for the fuselage and the canopy.
The advanced sensor suite of the Lightning II is the greatest step-change in capability that the UK has not previously possessed. The APG-81 is an Active Electronically Scanned Array multi-function radar with Synthetic Aperture Radar and Ground Moving Target Indication capabilities. Targeting information can also be supplied by an Electro-Optical Targeting System, which provides long-range detection and precision targeting by employing thermal imaging, laser tracking and marking. 360 degree situational awareness is aided by the Electro-Optical Distributed Aperture System. Lightning IIs advanced mission systems will also provide navigation information, missile warning and infrared search and track capabilities.
Lightning II will place the RAF at the forefront of fighter technology and will give it a true multi-role aircraft that will surpass the majority of other weapons systems in production today, or envisaged in the foreseeable future. Lightning II and Typhoon aircraft will make up the Fast Jet elements of Future Force 2020.