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


  1. I do hope the UK orders all the 138 F35 is aspires to.

    This aircraft will dominate the air warfare for a generation.

    Any attempt to replace the F35 with more Typhoon s, as reported today, should be resisted.

    • Hi Mike-good comments from you in the Telegraph. There is much confusion and some downright ignorance from many of the posts. One gentleman even suggested we should be buying F 18’s for the QE’s!

      • Thanks Geoff, I don’t mind discussing the pros and cons of a UK F35 purchase but there is so much rubbish being posted about the F35 I get the feeling I am wasting my time.

    • (Chris H) Mike Saul – You are creating an ‘Either / Or’ scenario when the reality is that the F-35 cannot do what a Typhoon can do in performance and weapon load and the Typhoon cannot do what the F-35 does in stealth, sensor and suppression capabilities. We will be deploying them together in a world beating team on land based deep strike operations, deploy F-35 as 5th Gen carrier strike capability, Typhoon in QRA / interceptor and stand off operations and the F-35 in close support work as we did with Harrier.

      We need new Typhoons to replace Tranche 1 Typhoons that will be out of service hours in 10 years and they cannot be upgraded as the airframes are different to later Tranche airframes. To me the only question is do we keep supporting the ‘Eurofighter’ project now Airbus has gone with Dassault to the exclusion of the UK or, as I prefer, develop a Typhoon II from the best of what we already have in a developed airframe that adds naval capability and some F-35 design features BAE created. We own all the necessary intellectual copyrights and even the engine manufacturing is Rolls Royce basically as they own MTU.

      We need both and have made a substantial contribution to both.

      • The F35B is the only fast jet on the market that can operate from our carriers. They don’t have cats and traps, so fitting a Typhoon with an arrester hook isn’t an option, we’d have to build a STOVL version

      • According to RAF pilots who have flown the F35 it represents a generational leap forward over existing aircraft, including Typhoon.

        Given our current strength, iwould hope for a mixed force of F35 and Typhoon.

        Red flag 2017 showed the F35 is capable of winning air dominance against 4th generation aircraft. It is reported that it achieved kill ratios of 20 to 1.

        Talk of a Typhoon 11 is fanciful in my opinion, the funds do not exist to create it and the production would be small.

        The F35 is good deal for the UK military and the economy we should stick with it.

    • Why? Sad that it takes up fuel and weapons space of course but it is what it is, it’s the price we pay for VTOL capability. Are your concerns related to reliability?

      I confess that I do find it a bit alarming when the flap pops open at the top particularly on takeoff when it is facing into the forward air resistance. That hinge must take a lot of stress on takeoff. Obviously it’s all been designed, modelled and tested very thoroughly but that must be one heck of a strong hinge & joint there.

      • It’s reliability that concerns me most. The Harrier worked and was an elegant solution. The F35 looks too much like the Yak 38. I will be glad to be proved wrong.

        • You still haven’t clearly stated why the design concerns you. Whether it “looks” like one design as opposed to another isn’t really enough.

          The F-35b jets have been through years of extensive testing. They work perfectly.

        • The only way it looks like the Yak 38 is that it has a bespoke lift engine. I think the Yak 38 generally looks more like the Harrier.

          The F38A is already in service with the Israeli Air Force, whose pilots are very pleased with their new planes by all accounts.

  2. There is no reason it should. It is a more efficient design that that of the harriers VTOL system, plus it allows stealth features.

  3. The article doesn’t actually say what’s manufactured in the UK, only which British firms are involved. Hope I’m wrong but I’m sure Rolls Royce USA (formerly Allison) make the LiftFan and nozzle. Not sure about the roll ducts.

  4. Our focus in field of aviation should be Taranis. We should not go into a joint venture with France, we don’t need to, we are more than capable of doing this by ourselves. We will then have a British product for export which we will gain all the money from. We will also need a factory to build them which will keep people in well paid jobs.

    This should also have been done with the Zephyr u.a.v., it is absolutely disgusting that all the hard work was done only for it to be sold to foreigners instead of having a British product for us to export and make money from.

    • Sorry I’m a little confused France ?? the F35 Lightning 2 is American the Typhoons are a Euro venture but not including France they built the Raphael instead, and as for British built aircraft well we can thank the Conservative lead coalition Government for loosing jobs and billions of pounds in sales of the up graded NIMROD the aircraft that according to Cameron didn’t work yet was described by the C in C of all the Allies against Saddam Hussein as the most efficient aircraft of its type in the field and the American Air Force, Coast Guard, and Navy where looking too put in a massive order for this aircraft and this was in American newspapers and discussed in congress and Cameron cut them up because they didn’t work according to his information from his expert’s who where working from out of date materials and even when they were told refused to admit their mistake and Cameron couldn’t sack his old school chums

      • Adrian – I don’t doubt your enthusiasm for the Nimrod MR4 but there would be more chance of both of us winning the jackpot on the Lottery than any large export orders placed for it by any of the agencies in the USA that you suggested.

    • StephenG, vent your spleen against British capitalism! No one else is to blame. Zephyr got no backing in the U.K. Airbus saw the potential and took the concept to Germany for further development. But surprise, surprise – who actually stepped up to buy it? U.K. Special Forces. And the deal was that the programme had to retain to the U.K. And Airbus gladly complied. So the programme is alive and well and resident in the U.K. But if it hadn’t been for Airbus, the programme would have died a death as with so many other great British inventions…

  5. Typhoon II is the best way forward for us without question.
    Allocate the funding we know we already have and get on with it including a navalised version.

  6. I agree Taranis should definitely be treated as a priority and rather than let the French delay and screw us over on workshare we should invest in our national aeronautical industry. The Saudis would gladly invest in them. Zephyr is a strange one that the UK govt would allow quintq to sell all of that research. Maybe they needed the £££ for more research.

    • Of course it has to have combat capability, under all circumstances. I am sure they do things like this deliberately to sabotage British industry, things like this have happened far too often and have been going on far too long for it to by accident.

      Us British people want this war against British industry to end, and we want our industries invested in and supported, in at least some fields (shipbuilding, steel making, aerospace, train making, armoured fighting vehicles, etc., etc.).

      The Taranis is a golden opportunity for Britain to have a great product in the aerospace sector. U.a.v.s with combat capability are obviously the future, it absolutely has to have combat capability otherwise it is yet another wasted opportunity (deliberate attack more like). Please, please, please and a thousand times please invest in Taranis as such, keep it in British hands, so we can have at least one great product to export.

  7. You still haven’t clearly stated why the design concerns you. Whether it “looks” like one design as opposed to another isn’t really enough.

    The F-35b jets have been through years of extensive testing. They work perfectly.

  8. We’re having real problems keeping up with the standards that the yanks are demanding on f-35 parts. It’s actually leading to massive delays and concerns.

    • I just hope our government have the balls to go it alone. Get financial backing by someone like the Saudis.
      BAE can do this. Develop a family of Ucavs based on a common airframe: a fully fledged STOBAR capable fighter ucav, a penetrating surveillance ucav and an AWAC type for the carriers. Maybe also a refuelling drone like the US are doing.
      Take the r&d done with Magma and merge with the Taranis. Could be a world leader if the stealth capabilities are as good as suggested. Please don’t waste another opportunity!

      • BAE Systems could certainly do this, they have the nessasary skill sets along with RR, but the development costs would be extremely expensive and the small number built would put the unit cost though the roof!

        Even with export numbers, you would struggle to build 200

        Then, 10 years later, you go through the massive cost all over again of upgrading it to counter obsolescence and the UK taxpayer having to foot the entire bill. This would be the sort of project that would just drain the Defence budget.

        We need a UK,US,Japan, South Korean jointly developed and funded system, with our European supposed “partners” kept well away from it!

  9. If Gavin Williamson goes through with his future air combat strategy to cut 90 F-35s for Typhoons we will have a bill drafted to bring all F-35 production from the UK brought back to the United States. You don’t commit to something then bail out at the last minute and still reap the rewards.

    • I would agree, and we all here in the uk have a good moan at the French when they do it. However, we have probably contributed a significant amount in r&d and do the uk companies not hold copyright on their parts of the design or does Lockheed own it all?

    • Don’t forget the UK have sunk billions into supporting the development and sharing our sovereign tec. That’s the difference between a level one partner and everyone else, we actually helped design the thing we are not just another customer.

  10. This is more polical clap trap leaking out from within the MOD and senior members of the service, it’s all about position politics over actual needs.

    I’m sure we are not going to see any major movement around the F35 buy, after all it relates to a 50 year ish period and would have significant implications around economics (it’s one of our export products) and upsetting our key ally. What we may see is an order for more typhoons to replace the tranche 1 when they go out of service.

    One thing I do worry about is the the RAF top bass may have gone all positional over need and managed to get in a F35A order, which seems a small thing ( and some people just see the bigger weapon bay and slightly better range) but will end up really damaging UK hard power (it will effectively be the beginning of a slow death to the carriers and the RN as a whole).

    All in all I don’t think we will see a step down from the 130ish F35s as the promise cost nothing now and by the time if needs fulfilling ( in the 2060s-70s) all the ministers involved will be likely dead and and gone.

    I do think we will see something that looks like it strengthens the UKS defence so a new ( modest) purchase of typhoons for the Mid to late 2020s to replace the tranche ones would mean the conservative government could say ” we are investing in protecting the UK and protecting jobs” .


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here