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Fuel Testing Starts on First F-35 Lightning II Short Take-Off and Vertical Landing Aircraft

18 Jun 2007 | Ref. 172/2007

Fort Worth, Texas, United States. - BAE Systems has begun testing the fuel system for the F-35 Lightning II short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) variant, in an important milestone in the System Development and Demonstration phase of the F-35 programme.

Using a simulator at Lockheed Martin’s Fort Worth plant in Texas the BAE Systems team leads the work carried out at the facility. It allows the testing to simulate the fuel system on the ground in a manner that replicates the conditions it will experience when flying.

BAE Systems F-35 Lightning II managing director Tom Fillingham said: “The fuel systems testing is an important aspect in preparing the aircraft for its first flight in 2008. While work is carried out on the airframe to ‘mate’ the major parts, testing will enable us to have the confidence that the fuel system will perform as it should, ready for when flight testing starts.”

The testing rig uses actual production components that have been assembled on a movable platform that can rotate to simulate the aircraft climbing and diving. The simulator also allows the testing of sensors, valves, pumps and computers.

Testing will extend beyond the STOVL aircraft’s first scheduled flight in 2008. Once flying begins the simulator will be able to verify the system’s performance following any refinements identified from the sorties.

BAE Systems delivered the aft fuselage for the first STOVL aircraft in April to industry partner, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company. The horizontal and vertical tails will be delivered over the coming weeks. Mating of the centre and aft fuselage is due to take place during June.

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

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

BAE Systems is teamed with Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman to deliver the F-35 Lightning II - the world’s largest defence programme.

The F-35 Lightning II, also known as the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), will be the world’s first and only stealthy, supersonic, multi-role fighter. The F-35 is being developed for the U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps to replace the AV-8B Harrier, A-10, F-16 and the F/A-18 Hornet and for the UK’s Royal Air Force and Royal Navy to replace the Harrier and Sea Harrier.

Three variants of the aircraft are in development and feature a high degree of commonality. Each variant is being tailored to meet the unique requirements of US and UK services. The variants are: a conventional takeoff and landing aircraft (CTOL) for the U.S. Air Force; a short takeoff/vertical landing (STOVL) variant for the U.S. Marine Corps and the UK; and a carrier takeoff and landing (CV) aircraft for the U.S. Navy. Current stated requirements from initial customers are for approximately 3,000 aircraft.

The F-35 programme is currently in the System Development and Demonstration (SDD) phase, which will see the production of 21 test aircraft. Fifteen F-35s will undergo flight test, and six will be used for static testing. Another high-fidelity full-scale model F-35 will validate the aircraft’s radar signature. The first flight of the first F-35 aircraft, a preproduction conventional takeoff and landing variant, took place on 15 December 2006.

The aft fuselage and empennage for each F-35 Lightning II are being designed, manufactured and assembled by BAE Systems, setting new standards for assembly precision and pace. Digital design and precision manufacturing techniques pioneered by BAE Systems ensure the F-35 meets its demanding stealth requirements. During full-rate production, assembly time for an F-35 is expected to be less than half that of current generation fighters.

BAE Systems is also responsible for the design and delivery of key areas of the vehicle and mission systems, including the fuel system, crew escape and life support system as well as Prognostics Health Management (PHM) integration and UK aircraft carrier integration support. BAE Systems also brings key expertise to Autonomic Logistics and Global Sustainment (support), UK weapons integration, vehicle and mission systems, flight sciences and structural testing.

An extension to the teaming agreement signed by BAE Systems and Lockheed Martin at Farnborough International 2006 sets out BAE Systems Military Air Solutions role in the sustainment phase of the programme. BAE Systems is playing a vital role in developing the F-35 global sustainment business model and will lead sustainment activities for the UK fleet on behalf of the F-35 Team.

The System Development and Demonstration (SDD) phase is estimated to be worth more than $2.5bn to BAE Systems Military Air Solutions and future production contracts could total $25bn. These figures do not include export sales, support or other opportunities such as upgrade programmes.

About BAE Systems
BAE Systems is a global defence and aerospace company delivering a full range of products and services for air, land and naval forces, as well as advanced electronics, information technology solutions and customer support services. With 88,000 employees worldwide, BAE Systems' sales exceeded £13.7 billion pounds sterling (US25.4 billion dollars) in 2006.

For more information, please contact
John Neilson, BAE Systems
Tel: + 44 (0) 1252 384795 Mob: + 44 (0)7802 337704

Helen Stansfield, BAE Systems
Tel: +44- (0)1772 856311 Mob: +44-(0)7793 420 714

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