"The contract will see the company deliver the aft fuselage and empennage -- vertical and horizontal tails -- as well as key mission and vehicle systems for two Conventional Take Off and Landing -- CTOL -- variants of F-35," BAE Systems said in a statement last week.
"This is a significant milestone for BAE Systems and for the F-35 team. The start of Low Rate Initial Production marks the transition from development to production of the F-35 program and is a major step towards making the F-35 available to customers worldwide," said Tom Fillingham, managing director, F-35 Lightning II, BAE Systems.
"We will start assembly of the aft fuselage and empennage for these first production aircraft in 2008 and the first F-35 aircraft is scheduled for delivery to the U.S. Air Force in 2010," Fillingham said.
"Low Rate Initial Production --- LRIP -- is funded on an annual basis known as 'lots'. The numbers of aircraft increase in each 'lot', which will result in a ramp-up in production rates for the partner companies -- Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and BAE Systems. By 2015 the program is projected to reach Full Rate Production -- FRP -- when the program partners will deliver the aircraft at a rate of one a day," BAE Systems said.
"This LRIP contract award comes on the back of our continued deliveries in the System Development and Demonstration phase of the program. BAE Systems is now manufacturing all three F-35 variants concurrently and we are starting assembly of a new aircraft set at a rate of one a month – unprecedented for this phase of a development program. This puts us in an excellent position to transition into the LRIP phase of the program smoothly," Fillingham said.