A new production line has been switched on at a Lancashire fighter jet-building factory.
The Integrated Assembly Line (IAL) is the latest phase of the multi-million pound investment by defence giant BAE Systems at its factory at Samlesbury, near Preston.
It takes the total spent at the site on buildings and machinery connected to its F-35 stealth fighter up to £150m.
Chris Allam, senior vice-president for the F-35 project at BAE, said the development would add another state-of-the-art element to the F-35 facility, which opened in March.
He said: “Less than six months since completing the extension to this world-class facility, we have now got a world-class assembly line to go with it.
“As far as manufacturing goes, this puts us right at the top of the premier league.”
The IAL will use an overhead monorail system which can ‘pulse’ sections of the rear fuselage, which makes up the back end of the F-35 jet, around the assembly line, allowing more parts to be made than before.
It is part of a push to ramp up production of the rear fuselage from its current level of one per week to one per day by 2016.
The company expects to add a second IAL to its production facility next year to support the horizontal and vertical tail assembly of the aircraft.
Over the past decade, BAE has invested in new machining facilities, office buildings and extending its production line on the F-35 programme, which directly employs almost 2,000 people within the company.
The programme worth more than £1bn to UK industry each year and will support around 25,000 British jobs over the next 25 years.
BAE builds 15% of the F-35, a project led by American defence giant, Lockheed Martin.