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BAE Begins Series-Production of JSF Components

SAMLESBURY, United Kingdom. --- BAE Systems’ latest piece of manufacturing technology has commenced production of components for the F-35 Lightning II at the company’s site in Samlesbury.

The new 5-axis machine, supplied by StarragHeckert of Switzerland, was recently handed over to BAE Systems and immediately went into production, machining a titanium component that will sit in the aft fuselage of F-35, the next-generation, supersonic, multi-role stealth aircraft.

Tom Fillingham, BAE Systems managing director, F-35 Lightning II said: “Although we are still in the System Development & Demonstration (SDD) phase, which will see us deliver 23 aircraft over the next 3 years, we are already working to a schedule that requires a new aircraft to start assembly every 4 weeks – a rate which is more akin to production phases of a programme, not the development stage which we are in.

“As we are increasing the rate at which we start to assemble the aircraft, BAE Systems and the supply chain have to supply more components, hence we need additional capability and capacity.”

John Evans, operations manager – machining at BAE Systems, added: “Components for the F-35 Lightning II are complex and require a high level of accuracy to ensure the aircraft meets its customer requirements. The new StarragHeckert machine will enable the machining business to meet these requirements and the increasing production rate required for the System Development and Demonstration (SDD) and Low Rate Initial Production phases (LRIP) of the programme.”

A second 5-axis StarragHeckert machine is scheduled for installation by the end of the year.

The F-35 is a supersonic, stealth fighter designed to replace a wide range of existing aircraft, including AV-8B Harriers, A-10s, F-16s, F/A-18 Hornets and United Kingdom Harrier GR.7s and Sea Harriers. BAE Systems is a key partner on the F-35 programme responsible for the design, manufacture and delivery of the aft fuselage and empennage (vertical and horizontal tails) and well as key systems areas including the fuel system, crew escape and life support system and prognostic health management integration.

Three versions of the F-35 Lightning II are planned: a conventional take-off and landing (CTOL), a short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) and a carrier variant (CV). Each is derived from a common design, and will ensure that the F-35 meets the varying performance needs of the U.S. Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy, the U.K. Royal Air Force and Royal Navy, and allied defence forces worldwide.

BAE Systems is the premier transatlantic defence and aerospace company delivering a full range of products and services for air, land and naval forces, as well as advanced electronics, information technology solutions and customer support services. With 86,000 employees worldwide, BAE Systems’ sales exceeded GB£15.4 billion (US$28 billion) in 2005.

New High-Tech Machining Technology for F-35 Lightning II at BAE Systems