BAE Systems at Samlesbury – Where the future has arrived

The first of three reports by Andrew Harris about the work of BAE Systems in our region

Our region holds many surprises yet there is no greater surprise than what is on the A59 just 3 miles east of the M6 junction 31: the BAE Systems facility at Samlesbury which is one of the most advanced aerospace factories in the world. It provides 10% of the engineering and the entire rear section of all three variants of what is variously named the Joint Strike Fighter, Lockheed Martin F-35 and - in Britain – the Lightning ll. The F-35 is the biggest defence programme of all time and BAE Systems’ participation was achieved by standards of quality and precision we could only dream of a few years earlier.

The history of aircraft production at Samlesbury is also full of surprises. For 10 years from 1939 the English Electric company achieved near anonymity by building aircraft branded by others. With a sister site at Strand Road in Preston – which closed in 1968 - it produced no fewer than 770 twin-engined Handley Page Hampden medium bombers in the first half of the Second World War – without which RAF Bomber Command would not have been able to launch its much-lauded 1,000 bomber raids against the Third Reich. Production of the 4-engined Handley Page Halifax heavy bomber was stepped up and nearly 2,500 contributed to the war effort. First flying in 1939 yet overshadowed by the iconic Avro Lancaster from 1941 it was preferred by many crews: it was easier to escape from the Halifax when the aircraft was doomed.

Read the rest of the article in the current March 17 issue in the magazine.