F-35 Takeoff Technology Site Opens Ahead of Historic U.K. Flight Trials
BRISTOL, U.K. — A state-of-the-art new facility making unique vertical lift technology for fighter jets has been opened by Defence Minister Stuart Andrew in Bristol Sept 18, according to the U.K. Ministry of Defence (MoD).
The LiftWorks facility, which has opened at Rolls-Royce in Bristol, makes the LiftSystem to provide F-35 fighter jets with a fan propulsion system that allows them to take off over short distances, hover, swivel mid-air and land vertically.
It is vital to the jets being able to operate from aircraft carriers and comes ahead of the stealth jets completing their historic first trials off the flight deck of Britain’s largest-ever warship, HMS Queen Elizabeth.
The site will support more than 100 jobs in the area after more than $26.3 million was injected into transforming the former defence manufacturing building into an advanced facility dedicated to developing the unique technology.
‘‘As we build up to the iconic first F-35 take-offs from our brand-new aircraft carrier, it is timely to open this Bristol site which is making it all possible. The incredibly powerful systems made at this high-tech facility mean our jets will be able to operate from British sovereign territory anywhere across the world’s seas to fight any adversaries which threaten us. The F-35 program is the biggest in the history of defence and is supporting a hundred jobs here at LiftWorks — as well as thousands more right across the country,’’ Andrew said.
The LiftSystem, which has a thrust strong enough to lift 17 Mini cars and a clutch that provides enough torque to turn the London Eye, was designed and developed by teams of engineers at Rolls Royce engineers in Bristol and Indianapolis.
The Bristol site is not only making the LiftFan for U.K. jets, but for all F-35B jets on order across the world. Production at the site has been building up since 2009, with the official opening now marking the fact that the facility is heading toward peak manufacturing levels.
The ‘Liftworks’ facility is one of many cutting-edge manufacturing sites across the U.K. contributing to the wider Rolls Royce LiftSystem contract for the F35 program. 40 percent of the work under this contract takes place in the U.K., supporting 900 jobs across the supply chain.
During the visit, Andrew unveiled a plaque marking the official opening of the Filton site before embarking on a tour of the facility where he met employees, apprentices and graduates.
“The STOVL [short takeoff and vertical landing] system on the UK’s F-35B Lightning II fleet has been performing exceptionally well for the Lightning Force. We saw this earlier this Summer when F-35s used the Vertical Landing Pads at RAF Marham for the first time. The opening of the new LiftWorks facility at Rolls-Royce promises even greater enhancements to this pioneering technology,” said Defence Equipment and Support Air Marshal Julian Young, chief of materiel (Air) for the MoD’s procurement agency.
“Rolls-Royce has pioneered STOVL technology through our development of the Pegasus engine for the Harrier and has now taken that capability to new levels in the shape of the LiftSystem for the F-35B. This new facility enables us to continue produce cutting edge technology to our customer while also ensuring that we are reducing their costs,” said Alex Zino, Rolls-Royce director of Customer Business Defence.
During his opening speech, Andrew also announced that the U.K. has accepted its 16th jet, which is now set to fly into Beaufort, South Carolina. There are around 200 British personnel at the American site testing the aircraft. The fighter jets will be jointly manned by the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy and can operate from land and sea, forming a vital part of Carrier Strike when operating from the Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers.
It has been a monumental year for Britain’s F-35 jets, after the first aircraft touched down on home soil in RAF Marham in June, two months ahead of schedule. They are on track to be operational by the end of the year. There are now nine of the jets at the Norfolk base, while more British jets continue to undergo flight trials in the United States.
Last month saw a British F-35 jet carry out its first trials armed with U.K.-built weapons, showcasing the major role that the U.K. plays in the supersonic aircraft.