UK to boost in-country F-35B support under LANCE contract

Lockheed Martin and the F-35 Joint Program Office have signed the GBP£76m Lightning Air system National Capability Enterprise (LANCE) contract, which seeks to boost the in-country support services available to the UK’s F-35B fleet.

The signing of the 25-month LANCE contract was announced by the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) on January 14. In which, it said that the deal will provide additional expertise on aircraft maintenance; UK-based training courses for pilots, groundcrew and engineers; and logistical/technical support for the F-35B fleet. The MoD states that the deal gives the UK more freedom to operate its Lightning fleet, adding that “it will increase the number of flying hours available, alongside delivering important mission planning, training and maintenance capabilities.”

F-35B [MoD Crown Copyright/Cpl Amy Lupton]
The Lightning Air system National Capability Enterprise (LANCE) contract seeks to boost the in-country support services available for the UK's Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II fifth-generation multi-role stealth fighter fleet. MoD Crown Copyright/Cpl Amy Lupton

Air Cdre David Arthurton, Combat Air Force commander with the Royal Air Force (RAF), said: “I welcome the opportunity LANCE provides to build upon the Lightning Force Element’s already close relationship with our industry partners. The new contract will deliver an enhanced level of performance whilst also providing welcome stability to all involved within the programme.

“Furthermore, it will underpin our participation in the UK’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,” he added.

The enforcement of the LANCE contract will allow three new capabilities to come into operation in the UK. This includes the provision of an ejection seat maintenance workshop, a ‘pilot fit facility’ to fit aircrew equipment and a component spray facility to transfer coatings onto the F-35’s components.

F-35B [MoD Crown Copyright/Sgt 'Matty' Matthews]
The UK has so far committed to an initial fleet of 48 F-35Bs, but still plans to acquire a total of 138 examples. These aircraft will be shared between the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm. MoD Crown Copyright/Sgt 'Matty' Matthews

The MoD adds that the 25-month contract includes an option for a three-month extension and that the majority of the work will be carried out by subcontractor, BAE Systems, at RAF Marham. It states that, as part of the LANCE deal, 172 secure jobs will be created at the Norfolk air base.

In a separate press release, Edward Sheldon – BAE Systems Air’s head of UK F-35 Sustainment and RAF Marham Site Lead – said: “As part of Lightning Team UK, our priority is to ensure our support solution at RAF Marham remains world-class to enable the deployment of UK jets whenever and wherever they’re needed.”

The UK currently operates a fleet of 21 short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL)-configured F-35B Lightning II fifth-generation multi-role stealth fighters. The most recent batch – comprising three aircraft – arrived at RAF Marham on November 30, 2020. Later this year, British and American F-35Bs will sail with the Royal Navy’s new flagship aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth (R08), on its first operational deployment under Global Carrier Strike Group 21.