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BAE Starts Manufacture of First F-35 Production Aircraft

MANCHESTER, England --- BAE Systems has cut metal on its first component for the F-35 Lightning II production aircraft. This opening cut, on a component part of the aft fuselage, signifies a major milestone for the F-35 Lightning II programme.

The metal cut is for the first production F-35 Lightning II aircraft which will enter into service with the US Air Force (USAF) in 2010 and follows the production contract announcement made in December last year. The contract - a Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) contract - is worth £25m to BAE Systems and will see the production of two conventional take off and landing variants.

The component was cut by BAE Systems’ supplier Hyde, at their Manchester factory. The component will move to BAE Systems’ Samlesbury site in Lancashire for further manufacturing work before all parts are assembled together before being shipped to programme partner, Lockheed Martin’s site in Texas for final assembly.

Tom Fillingham, F-35 Lightning II Managing Director said: “This is a proud and important moment for BAE Systems. We are progressing well through the development stage of the F-35 Lightning II programme and now, concurrently with development aircraft manufacture, we are producing the first production aircraft. This is a clear signal of how mature the product is at this early stage of its life.”

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 JSF meets the performance needs of the US Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy, the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy, and allied defence forces worldwide, while staying within strict affordability targets.

BAE Systems Inc in the US also brings key capabilities to the F-35 programme and delivers significant elements of the programme including electronic warfare, advanced low observable apertures, advanced countermeasure systems, vehicle management computer and active inceptor systems.

The F-35 Lightning II, also known as the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), will be the world’s first and only stealthy, supersonic, multi-role fighter. The F-35 is being developed for the U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps to replace the AV-8B Harrier, A-10, F-16 and the F/A-18 Hornet and for the UK’s Royal Air Force and Royal Navy to replace the Harrier GR9 and Sea Harrier.

BAE Systems is the premier global 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 97,500 employees worldwide, BAE Systems' sales exceeded £15.7 billion (US $31.4 billion) in 2007.

BAE Systems Starts Manufacture of the First F-35 Lightning II Production Aircraft