The first of the UK’s next generation stealth combat aircraft has today been handed over to the MoD. At a ceremony in Fort Worth, Texas, Defence Secretary Philip Hammond formally accepted the first jet which will be known as Lightning II. The aircraft are Short Take Off and Vertical Landing (STOVL) F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, manufactured by Lockheed Martin.
The UK is the first country outside the US to receive these aircraft and Mr Hammond today announced that the MoD intends to order a fourth Lightning II aircraft next year to add to the three already on contract. The RAF and Royal Navy will conduct flight trials of the jets which will operate from land bases and from sea.
“This hugely capable combat aircraft is now officially British and in the hands of our expert pilots. Highly skilled British aerospace workers are also playing a vital role in the delivery of Lightning II with UK companies involved in 15 per cent of the production and 25,000 British jobs sustained as a result.
“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. “