BAE has begun manufacturing work on the first F-35 Lightning II aircraft for the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD).

The first F-35 frame has been fitted into the assembly jig at its site in Samlesbury, Lancashire, UK, where the aft fuselage will be assembled by mid 2010.

The company is using the latest digital design and precision manufacturing technologies to design, engineer and manufacture the aft fuselage and empennage (vertical and horizontal tails) for each F-35.

BAE’s structural and dynamic test facility at Brough, Yorkshire, will take the lead on static and fatigue testing for the F-35 programme.

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

A fifth-generation fighter, the F-35 Lightning II, combines advanced stealth, fighter speed, agility, fully fused sensor information, network-enabled operations, advanced sustainment, and lower operational and support costs.

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The UK MoD will undertake testing and training of the three F-35 aircraft, before its operational service begins.