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The F-35 features a significant amount of British developed components and 15% of every jet sold globally is being built in Britain.

As the only Level 1 partner, the United Kingdom has garnered tremendous economic benefits from the F-35. British industry will build 15% of each of the more than 3,000 planned F-35s, in addition to a large volume of British developed aircraft systems including the electronic warfare suite. Some estimates put the jet at 30% British developed (not built) content.

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 update known as ‘Block 3i’. There are more than eight million lines of code required for full operational capability. Block 3i 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.

28 COMMENTS

      • Steven – I agree with David. Try these stitch ups:
        The only major airframe maintenance facility will be in …. in Italy.

        The only Final Assembly Line in Europe is in … Italy

        The only F135 engine maintenance facility will be in …. Turkey

        And the small parts store is in ….. Marham

        We are the only Tier One Partner.
        We invested in this project when it needed support in the USA
        We designed and now build very key components of this aircraft.
        We are the second largest purchaser of this aircraft (even in reduced numbers).

        We were totally shafted by the Yanks. But then that is what they do ….

        • Chris, there will be a major global centre for updating avionics and components here in the UK, North Wales to be exact.
          In addition to the pretty substantial Marham air base.
          Yes, there will be some other facilities elsewhere in Europe but we aren’t missing out.
          The Italian assembly line are due put together up to 90 aircraft for the Italian navy/air and force and a few for the Netherlands made from components primarily manufactured in the US and UK.

          The workshare for the UK will be for at least 15% of every single plane built including all the thousands of aircraft which will be in US service and other armed forces right around the world.
          No other nation (outside the US,obviously) gets close to the level of industrial benefits we will enjoy.
          Your anti-Americanism would be right at home on Putin’s Russia Today.

  1. It is critical the UK gets behind this aircraft and orders more – not less of them. An immediate order of 24 in each of the next 2 blocks followed by a further commitment to 8 p.a. over the following 20 years will give us a total buy closer to the operational force of 128 – 150 that we really need to cover the Tornado and Harrier fleets that this is replacing.

    This may sound a lot but it is actually 8 Sqdns of 16 with 4 earmarked to carriers and 4 earmarked to Tornado replacement + spares and sustainability will bring our total purchase to 220 airframes over the lifetime. Still half of the USMC buy and a key message to trading partners post Brexit that the UK keeps to its promises on work share commitments.

    British Industry benefits as does the military and if we can do a good deal on the 2 seed batches of 24 so does LM and the government.

    Time to step up and be brave on this – we need to send a message to the world and perhaps this will help with our GDP figures and productivity.

    • I tend to agree with that, any reduction from the 138 currently ordered or promised, as suggested in another article, might impact on that 15% and economic benefit to the UK.

  2. It is great for the UK to be so heavily involved with this US lead project. We are getting a financial return in line with the investment we made in the early years of the aircraft’s development.
    Tens of thousands high tech, well paid jobs are already being created here.
    We aren’t being treated unfairly at all.

    • jack – I suggest you go and find out where the RAF / FAA will have to send airframes and engines for major maintenance – Italy and Turkey. That isn’t just ‘unfair’ that is downright bloody dangerous.

      • You do realise the passenger aircraft you fly on will probably have been maintained in Turkey and very probable maintained elsewhere than the UK. If the RAF have their engines maintained in Turkey there will be a RAF (rep) on hand to accept any maintenance done as part of the standard release to service.

  3. Take a look at Typhoon where countries promise large orders (Germany, Spain, France) and then either pull out or dramatically reduce their orders.

    If the USMC can afford 400 on an annual budget of $30bn then I am sure the UK can afford 250 on an annual budget of $70bn+.

    It really is a no brainer for me and in reality it is 10 airframes per year over the 25 year lifecycle of these craft, hardly breaking the bank is it.

    • The USMC get so much with a small budget because it jumps on to the army and air force equipment plans, which gets it a ridiculously cheap price.

      • In fairness, the UK are also jumping on the back of these orders and with the F35b there is no reason for us to have a force that is so much smaller than the USMC.

        I am sure we can afford more and whilst not suggesting we order 400 I do think we can order in the region of 250 over the next 25 years. This really will allow us get the force to a size that it should be as without air superiority all other forces are exposed and cannot operate freely.

        We should really have a total combat force that matches the 400 of the USMC and that needs a consistent order of 16 airframes per annum at cost circa £2bn pa. This is about 5% of the budget as it currently stands.

    • Hi Daniele
      Many thanks for the link.
      Gen Mathis has really made his mark.
      SSBN and CVF guaranteed
      Amphibious fleet to be augmented
      Corps – safe
      Improvise, adapt and overcome – by sea and by land 👍🏼

  4. I wish we could put all our expertise into a lightweight, STVOL combat aircraft to add numbers at more manageable costs than the F35.

    • The F35 is that aircraft Frank. It is scheduled to be far cheaper than the Typhoon and by all accounts is a fantastic asset.

      No sure there is a cheaper asset that offers a step change in capability. We just need to bite the bullet and ensure we invest in m=numbers. If we are looking at the right numbers then we could probably split between the A and B variants.

      The B force becomes the FAA and the A becomes the backbone of the RAF. A total force of 320 would be sufficient I believe and give us some edge back.

      I dont see why this cant happen – priorities need to be called and this needs to be one of them.

      • In fairness I think we can be very creative in the future force with 128b’s for the Carriers 128 A’s for the airforce + 16 for R&D and testing and the remainder of the force could be made up of 256 Taranis, which can be controlled by the F35’s this will give us scale and capability within an even better price envelope.

        Still expensive but a real game changer.

  5. Fairness?”Life is not fair and when you die someone else wears your clothes.” The UK is building 15% of each aircraft and is buying FAR short of the 450 that would be the equivalent percentage of aircraft ordered. The UK is getting far more than it paid in. Despite a history going back to the F-111 Aardvark in the 60s and Advanced Harrier in the 70s, of the UK backing out after large amounts of money had been spent. Seems to be repeating itself but this time waiting for a large slice of program dollars.
    The US has been VERY generous to BAE. Far more than numerous congressional and senate delegations and more importantly their swing districts like.

  6. Let’s also not forgot, as I said before, Warton is a very high tech facility for R&D and manufacture of cutting edge end air systems.

    BAE Systems would be perfectly capable of assembling the F35, so why aren’t they? Simple, they don’t want to.

    As a company, they would be quite happy getting shot of Warton and concentrate purely on systems development.

    When Hawk and Typhoon work dry up they will do just this as an Anglo French UCAV demonstrator ( if it ever gets off the ground) is highly unlikely to end up as a production vehicle, as it will have been fatally compromised via varying requirments and low production numbers.

  7. Due to various Governments schemes stating “I’ve got a cunning plan!” regarding the UK aircraft industry since the 50s. It has been nothing short of a clusterf**k. True, there is not enough work for two major competing UK aircraft companies, but this is what’s required to drive down costs. It will be a sad day indeed when the last typhoon leaves Warton and there’s nothing to replace it.

    The National Shipbuilding Strategy was put together because of increased costs and delays in building warships for the Navy. It was perceived that have BAE Systems being the only contractor there was no competition and hence inflated costs. But, who initially formed BAE Systems, the elected Governments of the past. British Aerospace as was, was part of the nationalisation programmes from the 70s. I think it is still the only player left from that period. BAE Systems is now a completely different beast, for starters it is multi-national and has its fingers in many pies. It can therefore pick and choose from its many acquisitions. An example being the 5″ Mark 45 naval gun. Originally designed and built by United Defense, this company was acquired by BAE Systems. BAE Systems also acquired the Royal Ordnance Factories, who originally manufactured the 4.5″ gun and ammunition. BAE subsequently stopped the manufacture of the barrels and then the ammunition due to the limited demand. Therefore, not acting in the interests of our country but in their own commercial interest.

    Therefore, in the Nations interest, is having BAE systems, historically our main military supplier, a multinational company? Is there a case for splitting the company into two competing companies? Perhaps there is a case for developing an equivalent National Shipbuilding Strategy for aircraft and the Challenger replacement. We are a country on at least an equal footing to Japan, although they have a better productivity than us. So why is not possible for our country to develop military equipment that is at least on par with our competitors.

    Taking Japan as the example, their military is expanding and being invested in. Mainly due to the expansion of China, but also because of other neighbours such as Russia. If we look at the Kawasaki P1 which is their equivalent to the P8, it was purpose built as a maritime surveillance and sub hunting aircraft, not an adaption of an existing airliner. Therefore it has greater range and a much greater payload, although admittedly it is more expensive, but it was home grown.

    We as a Nation have fantastic engineering talent and it is not being fully utilised. The Government in the last budget, stated that it was to sponsor research and development. How about setting up a Tank building strategy and an aircraft building strategy? There is a definite need to replace Challenger, Typhoon, Hawk, Chinook and Puma so lets start planning now rather leave it to committees and foreign companies.

    • They WANT us to rely on foreign companies for practically everything (trains, ships, cars, trucks, aeroplanes, armoured fighting vehicles, etc., etc.). This has been their plan for decades. None of this is happening by accident. No other major European country is doing this, we do not want to be the only one.

  8. Correct me if I’m wrong, but it is Rolls-Royce USA (formerly Allison) who are making the lift fan. I’m also believe the STOVL ducting and 3D nozzle are made in the USA. I’ve tried to find out exactly who makes what but can’t get a straight answer.

  9. We are the only tier one partner, we manufacture 15% of every F35 and people are moaning that’s not a good deal?

    This is 2017 not 1967.

    • Mike I am somewhat torn over this, on one hand I would love to see Warton a hum of activity, with European F35’s rolling down the production line.

      On the other hand, an expensive aircraft would become horrendously expensive with local assembly…

      I think we are all patriotic people on here, that’s the reason we all contribute, because we care about our nation and its Defence … But, most of us are sick to death of BAE Systems ripping off the tax payer and taking huge shark bites out of the Defence budget.

      • John

        Nothing stopping us creating a fleet of 200 Taranis that fly under the control of an F35b pilot to deliver the tasking. This would be good for Wharton and also good for the UK as we can leverage the precious commodity that is the F35 and increase our force size through the far cheaper Taranis.

        We need to be the world leader in Unmanned systems in all our forces if we are to stay ahead of the game.

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