F-35 Empennage line at our Samlesbury site

A new revolutionary monorail system for the F-35 assembly line now extends to the manufacture of tails for the F-35 alongside the aft sections currently using this process.

Aircraft AF57

The first tails in jig on the line belong to aircraft AF57, a Conventional Take Off and Landing F-35 built for the United States. After machining operations the tails will pulse through a series of three stations during which sealants are applied followed by two carbon skins known as ‘structural wet assembly'.  At peak rate production tails will move down the line at a rate of one completed set every day. 

State of the art facility

The line is the latest stage in the transformation of the state of the art Samlesbury manufacturing facility where the rear fuselage, horizontal tails and vertical tails for the F-35 are produced. 


The new line for the tails (or empennage as it is commonly referred to) is built on the same lean principals as the rear fuselage line and allows more units to be produced more efficiently than before.  Both feature an overhead monorail system which ‘pulses’ parts down the line for all three types of F-35 aircraft (Conventional, STOVL and Carrier variant). 

Double the size

Andy Higgins who runs the facility said “The empennage line is a major step forward in the transformation of this facility.  Since we opened an extension to the facility, doubling its size to 18300m in March 2012 we’ve maintained our commitments to deliver against a demanding production schedule whilst at the same time developing and implementing new manufacturing techniques.  The team has done a remarkable job to make the transition happen smoothly.”

With the structural wet assembly line now operational, work continues to put in place the pre machining element of the line which will complete the transformation in early 2014. 

More about the F-35 programme 

Collectively some 500+ UK companies are involved in the F-35 Lightning II programme, building 15 per cent of each F-35 produced. Over the next 40 years UK industry will continue to play a vital role in the F-35’s global production, follow-on development and sustainment, bringing strong economic benefits to the country and generating tens of thousands of jobs.

Our involvement in the programme

We bring military aircraft expertise that is key to the development and manufacture of the F-35 Lightning II.  Along with being responsible for the design and delivery of the aft fuselage and empennage for each of the three F-35 variants, we also play a key role in other areas including vehicle and mission systems, life support system and prognostics health management integration.

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