The 318th rear section for an F-35 Lightning II jet has rolled off the BAE Systems production line in Samlesbury, Lancashire meaning that 10% of the global requirement has now been produced.

The aft fuselage is the back part of the aircraft’s main body and with more than 3,000 aircraft currently on order it is estimated that 25,000 jobs will be sustained across the UK by more than 500 companies in the supply chain when at peak production.

The rear section has now transferred from BAE Systems’ advanced manufacturing suite to Lockheed Martin’s Final Assembly and Check Out line in Fort Worth, Texas to be connected with other major assemblies to become one of three aircraft variants.

The 318th aft fuselage in particular will form part of a UK ‘B’ model variant of the jet.

This variant has the short take-off and vertical landing capability which makes it ideal for Britain’s new Queen Elizabeth Class (QEC) aircraft carriers.

F-35B jets are on track to make their first flight trials from her deck next year.

Minister for Defence Procurement Harriett Baldwin, said:

“This is an important milestone and the latest example of how the F-35 programme is BENEFITING the UK’s defence industry, creating thousands of jobs and helping to keep Britain safer and more secure.

Britain is a leading partner in the development of the F-35, supporting not just the aircraft that will operate from RAF Marham and our two new Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers, but also the thousands of jets that will serve our allies around the world.”

Andrea Thompson, F-35 Lightning II Director for BAE Systems Military Air & Information, said:

“Reaching the 10% mark of production on the F-35 programme shows how far we have come, but also highlights that there is an enormous amount of work still to do.

With an order book of more than 3,000 aircraft for the global F-35 fleet, the investments we are making in our advanced manufacturing facilities are key to ensuring we continue to deliver on our commitments.

To add to this, we are also working closely with our supply chain to ensure they are equipped to meet the ramp up in production at the same time as delivering against our existing commitments.”

Eric Branyan, vice president of F-35 Supply Chain Management for Lockheed Martin said:

“BAE Systems is a valued partner on the F-35 program, and we congratulate them on this significant milestone. The United Kingdom is the F-35 program’s only tier one partner and the work of BAE Systems and other in-country suppliers has a significant positive impact on the UK economy. We look forward to many more years of partnering to deliver the most advanced and capable 5th generation fighter jet to our allies around the world.”

BAE Systems is responsible for 15% of the work on each aircraft including every aft fuselage as well as other mission critical systems for the F-35 Lightning II programme.

The first operational Lightning II squadrons will be the RAF’s 617 Squadron (The Dambusters) and 809 Naval Air Squadron.

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Help me here, we build 15% of every F35 that is built. Yet we have to send our kites to Turkey to be serviced?


The maintenance for European jets are shared, Italy does the airframes, Turkey does the engines and we do the avionics. So all European F35’s will be sent to us for avionics maintenance/upgrades.

The 15% is production that we do of the initial aircraft.

Blame the yanks it was their decision. Cost affective apparently.


Farouk – This is a particular gripe of mine. We were investing in the development and design of this aircraft from the beginning the only country to do so outside the USA. BAE actually designed and developed the whole rear end and now produce that along with Martin Baker ejector seats, RR LiftSystem for the B variant and many other subsystems especially avionics and we even developed the F136 alternative engine. We offered LM a better helmet but they chose an American one (of course). There have been complete F-35 airframes under life stress testing at a BAE Brough because… Read more »


Just doing the maths here, corrections welcome. So the UK is ordering around 150 F35s in total, out of a (current) order book of 3,000. But the UK gets to build 15% of 3,000 F35s, the equivalent of 450 F35s.

Defence spending is supposed to leave 60% generally in the economy, so that would be 270 F35s worth. So basically speaking, ignoring initial development costs, the UK is making a profit of 80% on its spending.

I should be chancellor of the exchequer. Amazing what you can do with figures!


you kinda need to split the economy from the governments pocket. How much of that 15% ends up as taxable profit I have no idea but would guess around 1% or less. It’s seems though that it is a good deal for the UK as a whole, although I assume part of that 15% also flows back to the US for the rights to build the parts.


It’s wages and NI as well, and the spending in the economy from the workers, and the companies, even on transport, fuel, food, site maintenance, security, parts, all that sort of thing – plus profits from those companies in a chain effect.

John Clark

The good thing is that as we move away from LRIP production to full rate manufacturing, we will start to see significant income for our huge investment.

Batch by batch, the unit cost of all three variants is dropping, as the order book swells and production speeds up and the bulk of the very expensive initial development work is completed.

I look forward to the day when four block 4 operational squadrons are stood up with UK weapons and hopefully some organic AAR available.

We will have a truly world class and capable force.


Big mistake to put the European production line in Italy when UK is the stand out partner on this. It would also have given LM a bigger footprint into UK defence spending. Apart from that the UK need to have a fleet of 138 – so probably a product life time order of 200 is required. As stated above we will still come out of it the better economically and also have the numbers required for 8 squadrons of 16 operationally available. This would give us a like for like number of Tornado’s and of course re-constitute the Carrier wing,… Read more »

Christopher Fox

It’s a pity we didn’t manufacture the whole aircraft for the RAF & RNAS. We might have had a full squadron by now. As a tier 1 partner do we get first dibs after the Americans or will we be drip fed for years to come?


Christopher – Apparently the Aussies will be the first 100% F-35 equipped nation …..