The UK has signed a multi-billion pound contract which will double its F-35 fleet, the country’s defense secretary has announced. The deal will see Britain own 35 stealth jets by the end of 2022.
Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson confirmed that the UK has ordered 17 new F-35B aircraft which will be delivered between 2020 and 2022. Overall, Britain has committed to buying 138 aircraft over the life of the program.
The 17 new F-35B aircraft will be delivered between 2020 and 2022 and will complement the 16 British aircraft currently based at RAF Marham and in the US, as well as two additional aircraft which are already on order
Overall, the UK has committed to procure 138 aircraft over the life of the programme.
Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said:
I am delighted to confirm that we are doubling the size of our F-35 force into a formidable fleet of 35 stealth fighters. This is another massive order in the biggest defence programme in history. Our military and industry are playing a leading role in the F-35 programme. We are now building this game-changing capability that will soon be ready for frontline action. This programme is set to bring an immense boost of £35 billion into the British economy, and it will be welcome news to our firms that many more jets are now set for production.
The 17 jets being ordered are part of a $6 billion contract for 255 aircraft being built for the global F-35 enterprise.
The announcement is also good news for the UK economy, as British companies are building approximately 15% by value of all 3,000-plus F-35s planned for production. It is projected that around £35 billion will be contributed to the UK economy through the F-35 programme, with around 25,000 British jobs also being supported.
The UK is the largest operator of F-35s outside the United States. The announcement comes as existing British F-35B aircraft are currently traveling to the US on the HMS Queen Elizabeth, where they will take part in flying trials.
Meanwhile, F-35s aren’t the only new additions the British military is looking to acquire, according to the anti-drone campaign group Drone Wars UK, which recently claimed the government has been secretly funding research on autonomous “killer robot” drones. The Ministry of Defence, however, has denied that there are plans to develop any systems that would operate without input from humans.