A new state of the art production line for the F-35 fifth generation fighter jet has been switched on at BAE Systems’ Samlesbury site.
The new production line, known as the Integrated Assembly Line (IAL) has been installed in the latest phase of the new F-35 fifth generation stealthy fighter jet manufacturing facility at Samlesbury, which opened in March this year. Since the start of the programme through to 2016, BAE Systems will have invested over £150 million in F-35 buildings, infrastructure and specialist plant and machinery at its Samlesbury site.
The new IAL will use an automated overhead monorail system to ‘pulse’ sections of the rear fuselage of all three types of F-35 aircraft (Conventional, STOVL and Carrier variant) around an assembly line, building them as they go and allowing more units to be produced more efficiently than before – helping the team to ramp up production from the current level of one per week up to the required level of one per day by 2016. A similar IAL is planned for production in 2013 to support the horizontal and vertical tail assembly builds.
Chris Allam, F-35 senior vice-president for BAE Systems, commented: “Less than six months since completing the extension to this world-class facility, we’ve now got a world-class assembly line to go with it. As far as manufacturing goes, this puts us right at the top of the premier league.”
Over the past ten years BAE Systems has made significant investment in the F-35 programme, including a new titanium machining facility which opened in 2010, a new office building, the newly extended manufacturing facility and now the new production line. BAE Systems employs almost 2,000 employees on the F-35 programme.
Fifteen per cent of F-35 Lightning II work is carried out in the UK and over 130 British companies contribute to the supply chain. The programme is worth over £1 billion to UK industry each year and will support around 25,000 British jobs over the next 25 years.
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