March 19, 2009 (by John R. Kent) - British Defense Secretary John Hutton announced on Wednesday that the United Kingdom will purchase three Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II operational test aircraft.
F-35B - STOVL
This signals the U.K.’s commitment to the upcoming Operational Test and Evaluation phase of the Joint Strike Fighter program. Hutton made the announcement during a visit to Washington, D.C.
The F-35B is the first aircraft to combine stealth with short takeoff/vertical landing (STOVL
) capability and supersonic speed. It is the next-generation fighter for the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force, and will be flown from the two new Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers. The U.K. plans to bring 138 F-35s to the fleet.
"From the JSF
program's very beginnings, the United Kingdom has been deeply involved in the funding, research, engineering and development of the F-35 Lightning II
, and has made enormous contributions to its success,” said Tom Burbage, Lockheed Martin executive vice president and F-35 Program Integration general manager.
"This purchase reflects the key partnership the U.K. and U.S. will share in joint operational testing, starting early in the next decade. We look forward to the U.K.'s continued central role in making a great aircraft even better."
The U.K. is investing $2 billion in the F-35’s development – the largest contribution among the program’s eight partner nations. More than 100 British companies are involved in the program, including BAE
Systems, Rolls-Royce and Martin Baker.