The Power of Three - Work Starts on Carrier Variant of F-35 Lightning II

F-35 Carrier Variant Concept Demonstrator aircraft

SAMLESBURY, England - BAE Systems has started manufacture of the F-35 Lightning II Carrier Variant (CV). The CV aircraft is the final F-35 variant to start production and means that all three variants of the world's most advanced fighter aircraft are now being produced concurrently by BAE Systems.

The initial manufacturing on the CV variant is of the first titanium and aluminium frames that will form part of the aft fuselage for the first CV aircraft, which is planned to take to the skies in 2009. The aft fuselage and empennage (vertical and horizontal tails) for each F-35 Lightning II variant are being designed, engineered and built by BAE Systems, using the latest in advanced digital design and manufacturing technology.

BAE Systems' F-35 Lightning II Managing Director, Tom Fillingham said: "Developing three variants of the same aircraft, at the same time, is a first for the military aircraft industry. We are breaking new ground on the F-35 programme.

"Each variant has its own unique challenges that have required some innovative solutions from the team. Now that we have all three variants in manufacture it is great to see all the design and engineering work coming together."

The F-35 Lightning II programme is the world's largest defence programme and is currently in the System Development and Demonstration (SDD) phase. The SDD phase will see the production of 21 test aircraft. Fifteen F-35s will undergo flight test, and six will be used for static testing. Another high-fidelity full-scale model F-35 will validate the aircraft's radar signature. The aft fuselages for all variants of the F-35 are produced at BAE Systems' Samlesbury facility in Lancashire, UK. As production rates increase in the SDD phase, the BAE Systems team is starting a new aircraft assembly every four weeks - a significant achievement for this stage of a development programme.

The three variants of the F-35 Lightning II are being developed to meet the different performance requirements of the US and UK armed forces. The Carrier Variant (CV) is being designed for the US Navy and must cope with the demands of the catapult launches and arrested landings on the large US aircraft carriers. The Conventional Take Off and Landing (CTOL) variant will meet the needs of the US Air Force. Finally the Short Take Off and Vertical Landing (STOVL) variant is being developed to meet the operational requirements of the US Marine Corp and the UK.

BAE Systems is also responsible for the design and delivery of key areas of the aircraft and weapon systems, in particular the fuel system, crew escape, life support system and prognostics health management integration. The company also has significant work share in autonomic logistics, primarily on the support system side, and is involved in the Integrated Test Force, including the systems flight test and mission systems.

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