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How British is the F-35?

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The F-35 features a significant chunk of British built components, with up to 10-15% of every jet sold being built or developed in Britain.

As the only Level 1 partner, the United Kingdom has garnered sizeable economic benefits from the F-35. British industry will build much of each of the more than 3,000 planned F-35s.

The programme at peak will generate significant export revenue and GDP growth say the Ministry of Defence. The programme is projected to create between 19,000 and 25,000 jobs depending on who you ask.

The software team at the BAE site in Samlesbury, Lancashire, has worked alongside Lockheed Martin, the prime contractor on the F-35 programme, to deliver the latest software updates throughout the history of the programme. We understand that there are more than eight million lines of code required for full operational capability. Recently, they worked on Block 3i which equips the aircraft with 89% of the software code required.

John Brindle, principal engineer for F-35 Lightning II Development, said:

“Beginning with Jaguar, BAE Systems has a long history and world-class expertise in developing software for aircraft systems. We have made a significant contribution to 3i, including producing software for the fuel management system, on-board vehicle systems, structural health management and elements of the navigation and cockpit display system.”

According to Lockheed Martin:

“The fingerprints of British ingenuity can be found on dozens of the aircrafts key components. BAE Systems, GE Aviation, Martin-Baker, SELEX, Cobham, Ultra Electronics, UTC Actuation Systems and Rolls-Royce are just a few of the more than 100 U.K.-based suppliers for the program.”

They continue:

“The United Kingdom has played integral role on the Joint Strike Fighter since the program’s earliest days. Even before a final aircraft concept was chosen, British engineers and test pilots were making their mark on what would become a revolutionary capability. Under the desert sky at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., British test pilot left onlookers awestruck as he took the X-35B prototype out for its first flight on June 23, 2001.

A mere four months later, after witnessing the aircraft’s impressive performance, U.S. and U.K. defense officials announced Lockheed Martin’s concept would go on to become the Joint Strike Fighter. In the years since, the F-35 has continued to evolve. It’s advanced stealth, sensor fusion, exceptional maneuverability, unmatched interoperability, and intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance capabilities will provide the UK with a tactical airpower advantage for decades to come.”

UK industry is playing a valuable role in the manufacture of Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Lightning II multi-role fighter jet, an industry seminar at the Royal United Services Institute in London was told. Leading British suppliers displayed their F-35 technology as part of the event, which attracted speakers including Philip Dunne, then Minister for Defence Equipment, Support and Technology, Air, Air Chief Marshall Steve Hillier, Deputy Chief of the Defence Staff (Capability), and speakers from industry programme partners such as BAE Systems and GE Aviation.

Philip Dunne, then Minister for Defence Equipment, Support and Technology said:

“This is the most valuable defence programme in the world at present, quite possibly of any peacetime period. The UK’s share of this production run alone will generate billions of pounds and tens of thousands of jobs for the British economy. To date, we estimate that almost £5 billion of contracted work has been placed with the UK supply chain.”

Mr Dunne said the benefits of the F-35 to the UK would be widespread.

“Our Armed Forces will be equipped with the best next new generation jet fighter available, giving them the operational advantage they will need to protect our citizens for decades to come. The taxpayer gets value for money from the efficiencies that derive from international collaboration and the subsequent economies of scale. And our world leading defence industry benefits from its enduring involvement in a significant portion of the production work, creating jobs and promoting growth in our economy.”

Cliff Robson, Senior Vice-President for the F-35 Lightning II programme at BAE Systems, said in an interview, referring to the estimated British 25,000 jobs either directly created or supported in the F-35 supply chain.

“It’s cheap when you look at what that investment is returning to the UK.”

When the jet reaches peak production, the programme will be worth some £1 billion to UK industry alone, according to research by KPMG the accounting firm.



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