Published 04 April 2023
The UK’s fleet of cutting-edge F-35 Lightning stealth jets will be maintained and supported in a new £161 million contract, ensuring they remain ready for combat operations across the globe.
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Based at RAF Marham, home of the UK Lightning Force, the investment sustains around 140 UK jobs – 130 directly at the Norfolk base, with around 10 more through the supply chain – delivering on the Prime Minister’s priority to grow the economy creating better-paid jobs and opportunities right across the UK.
A successor to a previous agreement due to conclude this year, the contract was signed by the US Joint Program Office and Lockheed Martin as F-35 prime contractor, with BAE Systems to carry out the work as a sub-contractor.
Providing support to the F-35 fleet until 2027, the arrangement offers the UK more freedom to operate the aircraft, increases the number of flying hours available and delivers important mission planning, training, and maintenance capabilities.
Minister for Defence Procurement, Alex Chalk KC, said:
“Our F-35 Lightning stealth jets are a formidable fighting force, putting us at the cutting-edge of air-borne military capability.
“Supporting more than 100 jobs in the East of England, this investment will ensure our jets remain equipped for combat operations around the world.”
Negotiated by Defence Equipment & Support (DE&S), the Lightning Air System National Capability Enterprise (LANCE) contract will provide technical support and training services for the UK’s F-35 fleet.
The F-35 Lightning is a multi-role, stealth aircraft containing cutting-edge technologies which is flown by both the Royal Navy and the RAF. Although based at RAF Marham in Norfolk, it also operates from the UK’s two new Queen Elizabeth Class Aircraft Carriers and other land bases.
In addition to its short take-off and vertical landing capability, the F-35’s unique combination of stealth, cutting-edge radar, sensor technology, and electronic warfare systems make it a true fifth-generation combat aircraft.
Air Cdre Phil Brooker, Hd Lightning II Delivery Team & Combat Air Principal Engineer at DE&S, said:
‘The signature of the LANCE contract is a significant milestone in the maturity of the UK’s F-35 National Support Solution and demonstrates confidence in Lockheed Martin and BAES’ ability to enable the nation’s critical F-35 Freedom of Action capability and deliver the necessary support to the UK Warfighter.
“Adopting lessons from the previous two year ‘Operate and Demonstrate’ phase contract, LANCE 23 offers value for money, whilst also increasing the overall scope from the previous contract and introducing significant capability enhancements critical to the generation of Air Vehicle Availability.
“Additionally, BAES as the on-site lead ensures that wider UK Combat Air portfolio synergies are realised, and drives a culture of Continuous Improvement, marking out the MOD, US DoD and Industry as valued strategic partners.”
As part of the contract, BAE Systems will continue to deliver pilot and groundcrew training together with a range of other critical services, including an ejection seat and canopy maintenance workshop, a ‘Pilot fit facility’ to fit aircrew flying equipment and component spray facility to transfer coatings onto aircraft parts.