F35B LIGHTNING II ACHIEVES NEW MILESTONES
Chief Executive, Lockheed Martin UK Over the past six decades, Lockheed Martin (LM) has evolved into one of the United Kingdom’s (UK’s) closest and most vital defence industrial partners. LM currently runs about 60 programmes in the UK and has more than 3,000 employees at 21 different sites dotted around the country. Its partnerships with the Ministry of Defence (MOD) cover an impressively broad spectrum – from the strategic deterrent, the Military Flying Training System and armoured vehicles to the C-130J Hercules transport aircraft and the F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter. For Peter Ruddock, Chief Executive of Lockheed Martin UK, the F-35B is a programme that he is especially proud of – one that puts the UK right at the centre of the largest defence programme in the world. According to Ruddock, “The F-35 is a global programme, and the United Kingdom is the only Tier One partner, so we have a special status within the programme.” However, the former RAF Air Marshal and pilot is quick to praise the partnership ethos that surrounds this rapidly maturing joint effort.
SPEAKING FROM EXPERIENCE As a former fighter pilot, Ruddock understands more than most how significant the progression is. “I have got a lot of experience flying fast jets. I have flown most of the fourth-generation fighters, but the discriminator these days is information and access. F-35 offers pilots a far superior understanding of the environment in which they are operating. It also gives them access to extremely hostile areas that would be lethal to the
current crop of fourth-generation aircraft. That is the difference,” Ruddock explains. “The nature of warfare is changing and information is absolutely the key to success. Another huge advantage the F-35 brings is the fact that it is so easy to fly. This frees the pilots from having to concentrate on flying the aircraft so that they can digest the information that is being delivered to them, enabling operators to gain better situational awareness and then focus on their weapon systems.” The F-35 programme received a series of boosts recently with the announcement that the UK will purchase the full complement of 138 aircraft previously envisaged, and that RAF Marham will be home to two squadrons by 2023. Ruddock points out how rapidly the programme is now moving: “There are now approaching 180 F-35s in the air. That is almost as many as the total number of F-22 aircraft built. What’s more, one UK F-35B will roll off the production line every eight weeks.” This summer marks another milestone. Five F-35 Lightning IIs will be flying in UK airspace at both the Royal International Air Tattoo and the Farnborough International Airshow.
“The first thing I would say is that the Ministry of Defence (MOD) as well as Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S), together with the Royal Air Force (RAF) and the Royal Navy (RN) have an absolutely excellent team on the F-35 programme. That said, so does LM and our industry partners. We really have got our best people on this, because it is an incredibly complex programme, but we need to because the prize is huge,” explains Ruddock. By that he means that the capability the aircraft will bring to the RAF and RN is a step-change in operational sophistication compared to the fourthgeneration Tornado and Typhoon fighter aircraft that the RAF currently operates.
The number of F-35 Lightning II aircraft now flying has reached almost 180