Farnborough 2018: UTC to expand UK F-35 MRO operations
American defence supplier UTC Aerospace Systems is set to expand its F-35 MRO operations at its Wolverhampton base as the fast jet programme begins UK deliveries.
The first four of 138 F-35B Lightning II aircraft that the MoD has ordered arrived in the UK last month, with UTC responsible for designing, manufacturing and servicing the weapons bay door system (WBDDS), alongside a number of utility actuation parts for all three F35 variants.
'The Wolverhampton site is currently the only one in the world capable of servicing the WBDDS—a system of more than 60 components that serve as an integral part of the F-35, specifically designed to open and close the WBDDS within seconds to allow the aircraft to maintain its stealth signature,' the company said in a statement.
According to Matt Milas, UTC Aerospace military aftermarket general manager, a ramp up in production has already started in Wolverhampton to meet an increase in demand from F35 manufacturer Lockheed Martin.
'For 2018 the plan for production is for 91 aircraft to be produced with that figure potentially being moved to around 130 or 140,' he told Shephard.
'Due to the reliability of the aircraft, the volume of MRO work coming in is pretty low, but we anticipate that with extra numbers of aircraft entering the field and an increase to flying hours – over 140,000 now – a higher volume will arrive.'
UTC is also supporting a joint venture under the umbrella Sealand Support Services Limited (SSSL) comprised of the UK government owned Defence Electronics and Components Agency (DECA), BAE Systems and Northrop Grumman bidding to win a European MRO contract from the F-35 Joint Programme Office.
The office made a first phase award to SSSL (RFI 1) in December 2016 - providing the partnership with the rights to service a variety of F35 components, which included UTC electric power systems.
'RFI 2 - which provides a contract for remaining components is due to be released by the end of the year,' Milas confirmed.