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BAE Systems begins production of first U.K. components for F-35B STOVL

February 2, 2006 (by Jeff Hollenbeck) - BAE Systems has begun production of the first U.K. components for the first F-35B Joint Strike Fighter. The F-35B is the Short TakeOff Vertical Landing (STOVL) variant of the F-35 family.

The Lockheed Martin Joint Strike Fighter X-35B demonstrator aircraft descends to a vertical landing at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., following a supersonic flight in July 2001. [LMTAS photo]

The F-35's aft fuselage and empennage for the F-35 are being designed and manufactured by BAE Systems at their Samlesbury site in the U.K. The aft fuselage section is expected to take approximately 200 hours worth of machining and a total of three months to finish due to this being the first part made of its kind.

Fifteen people will be directly involved with the completion of this crucial component including two engineers who are responsible for the programming of the CNC macining program that will be used cut the part from raw material.

BAE Systems is scheduled to deliver this part to Lockheed's F-35 assembly plant in Ft. Worth, Texas within the next twelve months along with beginning production on six more F-35s.

The F-35B STOVL is expected to replace the AV-8 Harrier with the U.S. Marine Corps as well as the British Royal Navy and Royal Air Force. Two other variants of the F-35 are planned for production along with the STOVL version. The F-35A will be the Conventional TakeOff and Landing (CTOL) verson while the F-35C will operate off of US Navy aircraft carriers using existing catapults and cables.