DELIVERING A SUPPORT SOLUTION TOGETHER
Cliff Robson Senior Vice President for the F-35 Lightning II programme, BAE Systems “The F-35 programme is extremely important to BAE Systems, to our UK, US and Australian businesses. Here in the UK, through our Military Air & Information (MAI) business, we are responsible for the manufacture of aft fuselages and horizontal/vertical tails across all three variants. We also have responsibility for the crew escape, life support and fuel systems, again across all three variants,” explains Cliff Robson, Senior Vice President for the Lightning II programme. In the UK alone, BAE Systems has around 1,700 people directly employed on the programme, and this will grow as production rates increase over the next few years and the UK takes possession of its jets. Across the Atlantic, BAE Systems’ US business provides a range of world-leading electronics to the programme, including the Electronic Warfare suite, Active Inceptor System Flight Controls and Vehicle Management Computers. Furthermore, BAE Systems Australia also has a significant involvement in the programme, supplying
titanium components for the vertical tails. It also supplies components for the aircraft’s communication, navigation and identification systems to Northrop Grumman. “The F-35 programme provides a fantastic opportunity to build on the close relationship we have with both the Royal Air Force (RAF) and Royal Navy,” says Robson. “For the past 15 or so years, we’ve moved from being a provider of aircraft, whether that’s Harrier, Hawk, Tornado or Typhoon, to a company that now works side by side with our UK customer to ensure they not only get the world-leading aircraft off our production lines, but that together we deliver a support solution that enables them to focus on what ultimately really matters – delivering the mission, whether that’s a training sortie from RAF Valley or QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) from RAF Coningsby. That is something we would welcome the opportunity to do on F-35, and, together with Lockheed Martin, we are working with the UK Ministry of Defence to develop that support solution.” You can trace BAE Systems’ relationship with the RAF all the way back to when the service was formed in 1918. That relationship has developed continually since then and no more so than in the last 15 or so years, as industry has worked more
closely with the RAF in the support world. Support and training is a vital element to the relationship as Robson explains: “I think this has proven beneficial for both industry and the RAF. Closer to home, I’d like to see a continuation of the relationship we’ve built up through our joint working on the availability contracts we’ve seen on the likes of Hawk and Typhoon, and transition that through to the UK’s F-35 fleet. “I also think that with our experience and expertise in training – gained through our Hawk and the wider training systems wrapped around it, and through our continued involvement in Typhoon training, both of aircrew and groundcrew – this is another area in which we can continue to work alongside the RAF.” Most recently, BAE Systems’ relationship with the RAF has taken a step in a slightly different direction with the company being responsible for the construction of three new facilities at RAF Marham, ahead of the UK’s F-35B fleet arriving in the UK from 2018. “RAF Marham is a station with which we have had a strong relationship over recent years, due to our work on Tornado, and I’ve no doubt that this contract is the start of a long and fruitful partnership with the station on F-35,” concludes Robson.