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BAE Systems gets chunk of jet contract

NASHUA — BAE Systems in Nashua will continue its work helping Lockheed Martin develop integral parts for the new F-35 fighter jet thanks to a multimillion dollar award contract announced Tuesday by the U.S Department of Defense.

Lockheed Martin Corp. is being awarded a $485 million contract to develop the F-35 Lightning II, America's newest fighter jet. Parts for the advanced stealth aircraft are made locally at BAE Systems by New Hampshire residents.

About 8 percent of the $485 million contract, or roughly $38.8 million, will be reserved for work in Nashua, according to the announcement from the U.S. Department of Defense.

Last October, BAE Systems was selected by Lockheed Martin to supply a Night Vision Goggle Helmet Mounted Display system for the F-35 during its next phase of development. This year, BAE Systems will begin delivery of test assets to support the F-35 development and integration laboratories, flight simulators and flight-test platforms, according to a release.

In a statement provided to The New Hampshire Union Leader on Wednesday, Deborah Norton, F-35 program manager for BAE Systems, said the company is proud of the role it is playing in the critical fighter jet program.

&#';The F-35 is the only fifth-generation multirole aircraft in production today and the Department of Defense has stated that there is no alternative to the fundamental capabilities this aircraft brings,&#'; Norton said. &#';BAE Systems is dedicated to making this aircraft &#';second to none' working with Lockheed Martin and the Joint Strike Fighter team.&#';

The F-35 fighter jet, a $65 million aircraft, is expected to replace the F-16 and F-18 fighter jets by 2016, starting with the replacement of about 200 jets per year. Overall, about 3,000 F-35 jets are planned for production, with 63 already completed, Robert Rubino, director of the U.S. Navy F-35 program, said previously during a media event at BAE Systems in Nashua when an F-35 flight simulator was unveiled.

&#';The F-35 program is on track and is gaining momentum,&#'; Rubino told a crowd of media gathered at BAE Systems for the cockpit demonstration late last year, adding the average age of jet fighters is currently about 22 years old.

The U.S. Air Force, Marines and Navy pilots need fifth generation capabilities with stealth technology or there will be the threat of obsolete aircraft, Rubino said earlier. The new F-35 fighter jets will open up new ways of fighting and also create high-tech aerospace jobs for American workers, he added.

The F-35 has the ability to land vertically. It can also operate in virtually any battle situation suited for air to air or air to ground electronic warfare.

According to its website, the new F-35, complete with fighter speed and agility, will help combat terrorism by sharing information with allied aircraft, ships and troops on the ground.

U.S. pilots are already engaging in the F-35 flight test program, as the first F-35s were delivered to bases last summer.

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