British companies say their involvement in the F-35 jet production is boosting business
With more than 3,000 of the cutting-edge warplanes set to be produced over the coming decades, 15% of each aircraft will be UK made
British businesses have said playing a vital role in the production of the F-35 stealth fighter jet has had a positive impact on their companies.
With more than 3,000 of the cutting-edge warplanes set to be produced over the coming decades, 15% of each aircraft will be UK made.
Lockheed Martin, the American aviation giant manufacturing the multimillion-pound supersonic planes, said the programme has generated 12.9 billion dollars in contracts for British suppliers.
It comes despite the decommissioning of the UK-built Harrier jump jet which the F-35 replaced, and British job losses linked to a slow down in orders of the Eurofighter Typhoon combat aircraft – assembled in the UK.
Family-owned business R E Thompson, which was founded in 1948 and specialises in precision engineering, is one of the smallest companies involved in the F-35 project.
Business development manager Richard Elvins told the Press Association that they employ 40 people and have been involved in the Joint Strike Force programme for two decades.
“This has really developed our company over those 20 years,” he said, revealing their workforce has increased by 10 people during that time.
“We have sold about £8 million worth, but are a £6 million business,” he said. “And over the next 20 years we think that is probably going to be an additional £35 million.”
He also said that due to the length of the programme it has allowed them to invest in the capital equipment that the company needs, people and apprentices.
Producing casings for batteries on board the jets, Mr Elvins said so far their Hampshire-based company have manufactured more than 500,000 parts and they are “immensely proud” of their role.
“Every Joint Strike Force (jet) ever flown, including the demos, we have parts in them,” he said.
“We know if we see one, or the girls or the guys see one of these, they know they have probably handled a part that is in that plane.”
Harrison Smith a marketing executive from Martin-Baker which manufactures the ejection seat, said the Mark 16 US16E variant will be in all three types of the stealth fighter jet.
The company which is based in Middlesex said their involvement with the programme will sustain approximately 700 jobs.
With each seat costing between £100,000 to £200,000, Mr Harrison said it is a big deal for their creation to be in the warplanes.
“It is huge for British industry, it is huge for us as company – it is a big programme. It is ultimately going to be about 3000 aircraft towards the end – that is that many seats for us to manufacture,” he added.
Chris Pugh-Bevan the F-35 contract manager at Survitec Group said they design custom-fit pilot flight equipment – including cooling under-clothing, chemical and biological protective layers and anti-G garments.
He said the Birkenhead-based company are providing these for every pilot across the world who will be flying the F-35, and that their involvement is “key” for them as a business.
“We were selected in competition, so we had to go out and compete for this business – and for a UK company it was very significant,” Mr Pugh-Bevan added.
“It was the first time a UK company had got involved in a US programme for the supply of life-saving equipment. We were against the best of the American market.”
The company also produce the life-rafts which sit in the back of the Martin-Baker ejection seat – manufactured in Northern Ireland, they are deployed if the pilot has to eject over water.
Some of the other UK companies with contracts to produce parts of jets includes Rolls-Royce, BAE Systems, Ultra Electronics, SELEX, Cobham and GE Aviation.