Joint Venture BeLightning Kicks Off Horizontal Tail Program

ASCO Will Build Components for F-35 Lightning II

BRUSSELS, June 1, 2021 – Today the BeLightning joint venture between Asco Industries, Sabca and Sonaca Group, officially kicked off activity to build horizontal tails and related components for the F-35 Lightning II 5th Generation fighter jet. These efforts are alongside Lockheed Martin as the manufacturer of the F-35 and BAE Systems, who holds the contract for production of F-35 horizontal tails. This milestone comes after the signing of an implementation agreement between Lockheed Martin and BeLightning.

BeLightning, Lockheed Martin and BAE Systems will next stand up the production capability in Belgium to produce horizontal tails. Based on its own F-35 manufacturing capabilities in the United Kingdom, BAE Systems will work alongside Belgian industry to nurture skills and expertise in country in support of the F-35 program. BeLightning will deliver the horizontal tails to BAE Systems.

“Lockheed Martin has a longstanding partnership with Belgian industry through our work on the F-16 program.” said Bridget Lauderdale, vice president and general manager of the F-35 program. “Through the F-35 and BeLightning, this partnership will continue with Asco, Sabca and Sonaca for many years on this important project that brings significant technology and employment to Belgium.”

Work will be conducted at production facilities in three locations: final assembly at Sonaca’s facility in Gosselies, composites production at Sabca’s Lummen facility, and metallics production at Asco Industry’s facility in Zaventem. The construction and installation of state-of-the-art machines will begin soon at all facilities. The aim is to support the delivery of parts for, amongst others, Belgian aircraft and full production beginning in 2025, with the objective to accelerate this date.

This project is a direct result of the Essential Security Interest commitments made through the F-35 program, which offer Belgian companies opportunities for industrial participation. The aim of the project is to build a minimum of 400 horizontal tails representing approximately 400 million USD in projected revenues and the creation of 200 direct full-time employment opportunities for the production of these parts over the three companies.

The Belgian Federal government approved the creation of a funding mechanism with the involvement of the FPS Economy and the Federal Holding and Investment Company to finance the investments necessary for the manufacture of these highly critical parts. These investments will further strengthen the Defence Technology and Industrial Base in Belgium.

About the BeLightning Founders

Asco Industries is a leader in the design and manufacture of high lift devices, complex mechanical assemblies and major functional components for the aerospace industry. Asco already manufactures F35 Flaperon Spars in Belgium. This agreement with Lockheed Martin further strengthens Asco’s continuous support to the F-35 programs across its different entities worldwide.

Sabca has experience in designing, manufacturing, maintaining, and upgrading large and complex elements for aircraft and space launchers. Sabca offers full range services to the civil aviation, space and military aviation markets and recently expanded into the commercial Unmanned Autonomous Systems.

Sonaca is an aerospace company active in aerostructure, services, innovation, space and defense.

About the F-35

The F-35 Lightning II is the world’s most advanced 5th Generation multirole fighter. Three variants of the F-35 are replacing legacy fighters for the United States Air Force, Marine Corps, and Navy, and the Air Forces of at least ten other countries around the world, including European NATO members the United Kingdom, Italy, the Netherlands, Denmark, and Norway.

More than 645 F-35 aircraft have been delivered and are operating from 26 bases around the globe. More than 1,345 pilots and 10,500 maintainers have been trained, and the F-35 fleet has surpassed more than 385,000 cumulative flight hours.