First International F-35 Delivered

British defense minister Phillip Hammond accepted delivery of his country’s first F-35 strike fighter in a July 19 ceremony at manufacturer Lockheed Martin’s aircraft facility in Fort Worth, Tex. Designated BK-1, Britain’s F-35B short-takeoff and vertical-landing aircraft is the first F-35 supplied to an international customer. BK-1 flew for the first time in April, and is slated for test and training duties at Eglin AFB, Fla. “The United Kingdom was the first partner nation to join the F-35 program and has been a tremendous partner throughout the development, testing, and the initial production,” said Defense Secretary Leon Panetta in a joint briefing with Hammond in the Pentagon on July 18. The British government recently ditched plans to buy the naval F-35C in favor of the F-35B. “Buying the STOVL version of the F-35 will allow us quickly to generate strike capability from our next generation aircraft carriers,” reasoned Hammond at a Center for a New American Security event on July 18. He was referring to Britain’s two planned Queen Elizabeth-class carriers. Britain plans to buy 48 F-35Bs, reports Reuters. (Includes AFPS report by Cheryl Pellerin) (Panetta-Hammond transcript)