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UK signs deal for first production batch of 4 F-35B Lightning II stealth combat aircraft

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World Aviation Defense & Security News - United Kingdom

 
 
UK signs deal for first production batch of 4 F-35B Lightning II stealth combat aircraft
 
The British Ministry of Defence (MOD) has signed a contract for the first production batch of 4 Lightning II stealth combat aircraft – which will operate from both the Royal Navy’s new aircraft carriers and Royal Air Force (RAF) land bases. Yesterday, Lockheed Martin UK also announced the opening of simulation facility for the F-35 in its Ampthill site in Bedfordshire.
     
The Ministry of Defence (MOD) has signed a contract for the first production batch of 4 Lightning II stealth combat aircraft – which will operate from both the Royal Navy’s new aircraft carriers and Royal Air Force (RAF) land bases. Yesterday, Lockheed Martin UK also announced the opening of simulation facility for the F-35 in its Ampthill site in Bedfordshire. Royal Air Force's F-35B Lightning II multirole stealth aircraft Short Take-off/Vertical Landing variant
     
The contract for the F-35B aircraft forms part of the MOD’s investment in Lightning II over the next 5 years to procure an initial 14 of these multi-role fifth generation aircraft, as well as putting in place the necessary support arrangements and infrastructure.

Further contracts will cover the procurement of a range of equipment such as engines.

Minister for Defence Equipment Support and Technology, Philip Dunne, said: "Looking to the future, the investment we are making in the F-35 aircraft will ensure we are securing the skies for decades to come, providing the UK with the latest stealth technology and multi-role aircraft capability."

Not only does our investment in these next generation aircraft afford us air superiority, but the UK’s tier one status in the entire programme provides UK industry with a unique opportunity to produce world-leading products, technologies and manufacturing expertise for coming decades. The aircraft will be a powerful testament to the strength and capability of British industry.

In addition, with the aircraft being supported and operated from RAF Marham, this will create job opportunities for the local community, as well as maintaining its key role as an RAF operating and engineering sustainment base which will support the military and civilian workforce for years to come.

The news comes as a UK test team has completed initial aircraft handling trials for ASRAAM and Paveway IV on the F-35B aircraft.

Trial rounds, which are identical to the operational weapons, were tested for the first time during a series of flights from the US Navy’s test facility at Patuxent River Naval Air Station in Maryland.

These initial tests are an important step in integrating weapons onto the F-35B, allowing test pilots to understand how they affect the way the aircraft performs and handles.

The aircraft are short take off and vertical landing (STOVL) and feature the latest stealth capabilities alongside intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance (ISTAR) technology.

     

The Ministry of Defence (MOD) has signed a contract for the first production batch of 4 Lightning II stealth combat aircraft – which will operate from both the Royal Navy’s new aircraft carriers and Royal Air Force (RAF) land bases. Yesterday, Lockheed Martin UK also announced the opening of simulation facility for the F-35 in its Ampthill site in Bedfordshire. Lockheed Martin UK's first F-35 Virtual Analysis Laboratory in Ampthill, UK
(Pic.: Lockheed Martin UK)

     
The UK's F-35 program has also moved forward thanks to the opening of Lockheed Martin UK's first simulation facility for the F-35. The Virtual Analysis Laboratory (VAL) is designed to allow current and future pilots and engineers of the fifth generation stealth fighter jet to assess the aircraft’s mission system and put the software through its paces. By simulating battle scenarios, users are able to get a realistic understanding of how the F-35B will operate. The virtual cockpits, networked together to emulate multi aircraft operations, allow military personnel and industry to test how the software responds to a variety of situations.

Lockheed Martin is then able to use the VAL output to tailor how the UK intends to operate the aircraft either in sovereign missions or with coalition forces. The work done at the VAL will contribute to the development of updated software that will be fitted to F-35Bs.

The VAL offers a flexible and affordable design and analysis environment that will be increasingly important as the UK takes delivery of more aircraft.

The virtual testing and operational analysis that will take place in Ampthill will complement the flight training that is being carried out by Royal Navy and Royal Air Force crews on the UK’s F-35B aircraft in Eglin, Florida. The holistic approach of practical training and simulation will ensure that the UK’s aircraft will be ready to achieve initial operating capability in 2018.

Stephen Ball, Chief Executive Lockheed Martin UK, said: “This purpose-built simulation facility for the F-35B will enable the MoD and industry to maximise the aircraft’s capabilities specifically for the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force. Establishing the F-35 VAL in the UK will prove invaluable as the programme matures and its highly classified nature means users will be able to replicate real life operational situations and put the mission system to the test in realistic scenarios.

Air Commodore David Waddington, Air Commodore Lightning II, who opened the facility, said: “The ability to develop and test mission software rapidly has been proven to give the UK a combat edge on our existing combat air platforms during recent operations. The introduction of F-35 Lightning II represents a step change in our combat air capability and with it an increasing need to design, develop and test mission software in ever more rapid timescales if we are to maximise the aircraft’s enormous potential in future operations.

I hope the Virtual Analysis Laboratory will become a real force multiplier for the Lightning II Force, providing the men and women who will employ the aircraft in combat the confidence that whenever they deploy they will have the very best capability available to them, developed and tested in the most realistic synthetic environment available.