Fresh from confirmation by the US Navy that its F-35C Joint Strike Fighter ‘Lightning ll’ carrier variant had achieved Initial Operating Capability (IOC) making this the third and last of the U.S armed forces using the aircraft to declare IOC together with a separate announcement that that Singapore also now plans to procure the F-35 made last week a particularly good one for the Bethesda, Maryland based defence giant Lockheed Martin.
Last year had in any event been a pretty good year for the company as a whole and made all the better on the F-35 front with Japan announcing plans that would make it the largest international purchaser of the F-35 aircraft so far. Japan now intends to increase the number of F-35 aircraft purchased to a total of 147 of which 42 are likely to be the ‘B’ STOVL variant.
The F-35 programme is moving on apace and with no fewer than 360 F-35 aircraft operating from 16 military bases, more than 760 pilots and 6,900 Maintainers having been so far trained and with the in-service fleet of F-35 aircraft having already surpassed 177,000 cumulative flight hours, the future for those who fly, build and support F-35 capability is looking increasingly bright.
Achieving US Navy IOC on the F-35 is hugely important and it also means that for the first time in almost thirty years the US Air Force, US Marine Corps and US Navy are all operating the same family of military aircraft capability. Growing in size and stature it may be of interest to know that a detachment of US Marine Corps F-35B aircraft aboard the USS Essex recently flew more than 100 combat sorties whilst deployed in the Middle East, outpacing flight hours flown by the previous aircraft type (A-8B Harrier) by 2-to-1 and that this was achieved whilst maintain 75% operational capability.
With 15% of each and every F-35 aircraft being manufactured here in the UK translates to news of any additional procurement of the aircraft being good news for the UK. Worth noting too that purchases of UK manufactured equipment by Lockheed Martin US in 2018 were the equivalent to an estimated 37% of UK defence exports last year.
Excluding sales of the F-35 aircraft to the UK MOD and which classify as foreign sales from the US to the UK together with sales by AWE (Atomic Weapons Establishment – a partnership that includes Serco and Jacobs Engineering and in which Lockheed Martin has a 51% controlling interest0 an organisation which for the past 50 years has played a vital role supporting the UK’s Royal Navy operated Continuous At Sea Deterrence programme and other aspects of national nuclear security, it is worth making the point that Lockheed Martin UK is today the 5th largest defence supplier to the MOD in the UK.
Spending over £1 billion in the UK every year another very interesting estimate to emerge is from the company recently is that 76% of all companies that comprise the Lockheed Martin UK supply chain are classified within the Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SME’s) category. Given the importance that the UK Government and indeed, the MOD places on making it easier for SME’s to get onto defence contracts Lockheed Martin deserves significant praise for what it has already achieved.
Led by BAE Systems in respect of its large scale manufacturing input on the F-35 together with Rolls-Royce, Cobham and Martin Baker that each significant roles, other UK based companies either directly or indirectly involved on the F-35 programme include Leonardo, Meggitt, QinetiQ, Thales, GE Aviation, Gentex, GKN, Honeywell, Ultra Electronics, Survitec, UTC Aerospace and MOOG.
Lockheed Martin Corporation is the world’s largest defence company and one with an enviable reputation for what it has so far achieved. Engaged in research, design, development, manufacture, integration and sustainment of a wide range of advanced technology defence and security systems, products and services, suffice to say that LMC is about far more than just being the manufacturer of aircraft such as the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the venerable F-16 fighter jet and C-130 J military transport aircraft, it is a company whose activities stretch right across the defence piece.
In the UK Lockheed Martin has a number of significant activities operating from 16 individual LM sites and with its people working at 22 separate locations including military bases.
Examples of Lockheed Martin UK work include design, development and manufacturing of the turrets for fleet of AJAX armoured vehicles now being constructed for the British Army by General Dynamics plus also turrets for the Warrior upgrade programme, these also being constructed at its large Ampthill, Bedfordshire site.
I have already mentioned the hugely important AWE partnership operation above. Additionally, through a partnership with the UK Department for Businesses, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Lockheed Martin UK holds licences and contracts to explore an area of the Pacific sea floor for mineral-rich polymetallic nodules. This is in itself a fascinating operation and one that in my view has huge longer term potential.
Lockheed Martin UK is also engaged supporting the UK space industry and, through the 50/50 Ascent joint venture partnership with Babcock International, responsible for the training of UK armed forces pilots and rear crews within various aspects of the UK Military Flying Training System (UKMFTS) – a subject that I will shortly be writing on again separately.
Along with manufacturing armoured vehicle turrets Lockheed Martin UK is engaged in a number other projects including Merlin Helicopter for which the company upgraded for the Royal Navy and is currently engaged building the CROWSNEST Airborne Surveillance and Control (ASaC) equipment for the Royal Navy, C-130 J military transport support aircraft support and working closely on all C-130 Hercules type variants in services in Europe and Africa together with Marshall Aerospace (note that over 400 C-130 J type variant so far delivered to 21 operators in 18 nations), multiple launch rocket systems, guided missile systems, Javelin shoulder fired anti-armour systems, Ground Based Air Defence capabilities through its SkyKeeper product, cyber support, postal sorting automation equipment and much else besides.
The UK benefits from other important programme wins from Lockheed Martin as well. For instance, in November 2016 the F-35 Program Office announced that the innovative partnership enterprise formed between the UK Government owned Defence Electronics & Components Agency (DECA), BAE Systems and Northrop Grumman, supported by key F-35 Original Equipment Manufacturers, had been appointed to become the global repair hub for the F-35 – an award that means the partnership will be responsible for providing maintenance, repair, overhaul and upgrade services for F-35 avionic and aircraft components.
With a potential to unlock at least £2bn and eventually, maybe double that, UK companies such as BAE Systems can plan for significant support revenue through the lifetime of the F-35 programme which is expected to last well over forty years. Bottom line is that hundreds of European-based F-35 aircraft will now be serviced, supported and maintained in North Wales.
BAE Systems already has over 1,800 highly skilled personnel working on the F-35 programme on the manufacturing side here in the UK at Samlesbury and this can be expected to grow as more F-35 aircraft come into service with export customers that include amongst a long list of those that have signed up to purchase the aircraft, the UK, Italy, Netherlands, Australia, South Korea and Japan. The company is also has significant involvement on F-35 work in Australia.
In another interesting F-35 related announcement last month, I note that the F-35 avionic and aircraft component repair hub in Deeside was awarded a second major assignment of work worth some £500M by the US Department of Defense. This latest new assignment is expected to support hundreds of additional F-35 jobs in the UK – many of them at the MOD’s Defence & Electronics Components Agency (DECA) at MoD Sealand mentioned above and where most of the work will be carried out.
CHW (London – 4th March 2019)
Howard Wheeldon FRAeS
Wheeldon Strategic Advisory Ltd,
M: +44 7710 779785