The first of the UK’s Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning IIs has been handed over to the Ministry of Defence.
July 20: The first of the UK’s Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning IIs was handed over to the Ministry of Defence yesterday.
At a ceremony in Fort Worth, Texas, Defence Secretary Philip Hammond formally accepted the first jet, ZM135. The UK is the first country outside the US to receive an F-35 and Hammond announced that the MoD intends to order a fourth next year to add to the three already on contract. In all 48 aircraft will be procured, it was revealed, some way short of the originally planned 135.
Lightning II will be operational from land-based airfields from 2018, when it will also commence flight trials off the HMS Queen Elizabeth carrier, said Hammond. He also announced that the jets are likely to be based at RAF Marham, Norfolk, but that no decision has yet been made. Hammond said “Having taken decisions on the final designs of our new aircraft carriers and balanced the MoD’s budget we can now proceed confidently to regenerating our carrier strike capability with these cutting edge stealth combat aircraft.”
Fifteen per cent of Joint Strike Fighter work is carried out in the UK and over 130 British companies contribute to the supply chain. It is worth over £1 billion to UK industry each year and will support around 25,000 British jobs over the next 25 years.