BAE Systems has switched on a new, state-of-the-art production line for the fifth generation F-35 Lightning aircraft at the company’s facility in Samlesbury, UK.

The new Integrated Assembly Line has been installed as part of the latest phase of a new F-35 jet manufacturing facility at the site, which opened in March 2012.

The production line will use an automated overhead monorail system to ‘pulse’ sections of the rear fuselage for all three F-35 variants around the assembly line, increasing efficiency within the plant and allowing more units to be produced.

The line is expected to help BAE’s production team to ramp up output from the current level of one per week to around one per day by 2016, the required level to support production of the aircraft. A similar line is also planned to enter production in 2013 in order to support the assembly of horizontal and vertical tails for the aircraft.

The new production line marks a period of BAE investment in the production of F-35 aircraft, following on from the completion of a new titanium machining facility that opened in 2010.

Approximately 15% of production work for the F-35 Lightning II is carried out within the UK, with more than 130 UK-based companies contributing to the programme.