BAE Samlesbury site prepares for STOVL combat jet manufacture
BAE Systems has begun extending its F-35 manufacturing facility in Samlesbury, Lancashire, to prepare the site for a ramp-up in production of the combat jet.
The 4,500m² expansion follows the government’s recent commitment to 138 F-35 Lightning II STOVL variant aircraft for the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy. The government is also accelerating procurement of the aircraft, making 24 available on the new Queen Elizabeth and Prince of Wales aircraft carriers by 2023.
It also comes after the firm announced in November it was to cut up to 371 jobs at Samlesbury because of a slowdown in the production of the Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jet.
The facilities expansion work, 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 the new facility is complete, it will be capable of manufacturing 160 aircraft sets per annum, an increase of around 250% from current levels.
The planned expansion will provide more space for the aircraft tail assembly lines, test houses 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 to provide more capacity, including bigger areas for the paint shop and sub-assembly activity.
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.”
Over the past 13 years BAE Systems has made significant investment in the programme, including a new titanium machining facility which opened in 2010, a new office building and an initial extension to the manufacturing facility in 2011. The programme currently employs 1,625 people and the aircraft is expected to be in production for more than 20 years.