Lightning visit for US Ambassador

The US Ambassador to the UK has visited BAE Systems’ Samlesbury plant to mark a major delivery milestone in the world’s largest defence programme.

Robert ‘Woody’ Johnson toured the production facilities where the aft fuselage of every F-35 Lightning II plane is produced.

And he paid tribute to Lancashire’s planemaking tradition and the work being done in the county on the F-35.

BAE Systems has invested £175m in Samlesbury to develop advanced manufacturing capabilities that meet the demands of the F-35 production programme.

The ambassador’s visit coincided with the delivery of the 500th aft fuselage from Samlesbury. He met workers producing the aft fuselage, horizontal and vertical tails of the jet, which is operated by both the US Air Force and the RAF.

BAE Systems delivers up to 15 per cent of every F-35 built and has a major role in the on-going development and sustainment of the aircraft for customers across the globe.

The Ambassador said: “Lancashire has a very proud history manufacturing planes for the British military and it is fantastic to see that tradition continuing strong to this day.

“The highly skilled workers at the BAE Systems facility in Samlesbury are now helping to produce the most sophisticated fighter jet the world has ever seen: the F-35.

The F-35 is strengthening global ally and industry partnerships, while driving economic growth.

“Combining incredible stealth with supersonic speed, the F-35 is a game changer which will play a vital role in America and Britain’s collective defence for decades to come.”

The F-35 programme is being led by US firm Lockheed Martin, with BAE Systems and Northrop Grumman its principal industry partners.

The ambassador was joined on the tour by Charles Woodburn, BAE Systems chief executive and other members of the UK-headquartered defence giant’s senior management.

He said: “It was an honour for us to host the ambassador and show him the unique capabilities BAE Systems’ people bring to the F-35 every day.

“We secured our place on the programme through our engineering expertise and world-class manufacturing, but it is the ability, commitment and passion of our people across the world that continues to keep us at the heart of the programme.

“Delivering the 500th aft fuselage of the aircraft is a major milestone for us, and we know by continuing to deliver we will maintain our place on the programme and our strong relationship with the US.”

Greg Ulmer, F-35 executive vice president and general manager at Lockheed Martin, said: “In addition to delivering unmatched capability for defence forces, the F-35 is strengthening global ally and industry partnerships, while driving economic growth.

“BAE Systems’ 500th aft fuselage delivery is a significant milestone for the programme and another demonstration that the F-35 enterprise is ramping up production, improving efficiencies and reducing costs to meet growing demand.”