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Production Starts On STOVL F-35 Joint Strike Fighter
[February 10, 2006]

Production Starts On STOVL F-35 Joint Strike Fighter

(Space Daily Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge)BAE Systems has started production of the first U.K. components for the Short Take-Off / Vertical Landing (STOVL) variant of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), the world's next generation stealth fighter jet.

BAE Systems' Advanced Machining Center at Samlesbury, U.K. has started work on one of the major frames that form part of the aft fuselage. The aft fuselage and empennage for each F-35 JSF are being designed, engineered and built at the company's Samlesbury site, using the latest in advanced design and manufacturing technology.

Jon Evans, BAE Systems' operations manager at the Advanced Machining Center said, The component takes around 200 hours to machine, however, in-total, it will take three months to complete, not because of the size or complexity but because the component is the first of its kind. During this time, the component will be subjected to continuous tests and inspection checks to prove the engineering and the component's integrity, to make sure it meets the exacting standards of the F-35 JSF design program.

A team of around 15 people will be involved in its progress to completion, from machine operators to inspectors, quality control and logistics people as well as the team leader. Two engineers have been working full-time on designing the electronic numerical control (NC) tape that tells the machine which tools to use and where to cut. It is thanks to the JSF design team and the NC engineers that we can commence production today, Evans added.

Tom Fillingham, BAE Systems' vice president and F-35 JSF deputy program manager said, The start of production on the STOVL variant is a major step forward for the F-35 JSF program and represents a great start to a significant year. Over the next 12 months, we will see first flight of the first F-35 and we will deliver the aft fuselage of the first STOVL variant, to the final assembly line in Fort Worth, Texas. We will also start assembly on six more aircraft.

Three versions of the F-35 are planned: a conventional take-off and landing (CTOL), a short-takeoff / vertical landing (STOVL) and a carrier variant (CV). Each is derived from a common design, and will ensure that the F-35 meets the performance needs of the U.S. Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy, the U.K. Royal Air Force and Royal Navy, and allied defense forces worldwide, while staying within strict affordability targets.

The STOVL variant of the F-35 JSF is scheduled to replace the Harrier aircraft when it enters service with the U.S. Marines, Royal Air Force and Royal Navy.

BAE Systems facilities in both the U.S. and U.K. are responsible for the design and delivery of key areas of the vehicle and weapon systems, in particular the fuel system, crew escape, life support system and Prognostics Health Management integration. The company also has significant work share in Autonomic Logistics, primarily on the support system side, and is involved in the Integrated Test Force, including the systems flight test and mission systems.

BAE Systems is also designing and developing the F-35's Electronic Warfare systems suite and is providing advanced affordable low observable apertures and advanced countermeasure systems. Additionally, the company is supplying the Vehicle Management Computer, the Communication, Navigation and Identification modules, the active inceptor system and the EOTS Laser subsystem.

The System Development and Demonstration phase is estimated to be worth more than $3 billion to the company and production contracts could total $21 billion. These figures do not include export sales, support or other opportunities such as upgrade programs.

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