Lockheed Martin and the F-35 Joint Program Office have signed a £76 million aircraft support contract aimed at maximising the availability and capability of the UK’s F-35 Lightning stealth jets. The Lightning Air system National Capability Enterprise (LANCE) contract will provide additional expertise on aircraft maintenance, bespoke UK training courses for pilots, groundcrew and engineers, and logistical and technical support for the fleet.
Providing additional experienced technical personnel at existing facilities, the contract will reportedly also allow three new capabilities to come into operation. These include an ejection seat maintenance workshop, a ‘Pilot fit facility’ to fit aircrew equipment, and component spray facility to transfer coatings onto aircraft components. It will also increase the number of flying hours available, alongside delivering important mission planning, training and maintenance capabilities.
“The Lightning Force forms a key part of the UK’s Carrier Strike Group and plays a central role in protecting our interests at home and abroad,” said UK Defence Minister Jeremy Quin. “This investment will help ensure that this world-class fleet, and their crew, are ready to deploy wherever and whenever required.”
Based at RAF Marham, home of the UK Lightning Force, the investment reflects the increasing size of the UK’s F-35 fleet and will create and secure 172 jobs mainly at the Norfolk base. The contract will provide support for 25 months, with an option for a further three months. The majority of the work will be carried out by subcontractor BAE Systems.
“I welcome the opportunity LANCE provides to build upon the Lightning Force Element’s already close relationship with our industry partners,” added Air Commodore David Arthurton, Combat Air Force Commander. “The new contract will deliver an enhanced level of performance whilst also providing welcome stability to all involved with the programme. Furthermore, it will underpin our participation in the United Kingdom’s inaugural Carrier Strike deployment later this year, and provide an excellent foundation for future land and maritime operations as Lightning matures towards Full Operating Capability.”
The support provided by the contract will be crucial in ensuring the fleet is ready and prepared when it sails with HMS Queen Elizabeth on her maiden Global Carrier Strike Group ‘21 deployment.
“I am delighted that we have secured LANCE for the UK’s Lightning Force, stated Vice Admiral Rick Thompson, Director General Air for DE&S. “This is a critical support contract that shows a significant maturity in the platform’s capability.”
The UK currently has 21 fifth-generation F-35s, having received three new jets on 30 November 2020.