UK Buys F-35s

The United Kingdom announced Wednesday that it will procure three F-35B aircraft for the F-35 program’s operational test and evaluation phase. UK Defense Secretary John Hutton announced the decision during a visit to Washington, D.C., to meet with US defense officials. “The [F-35] Joint Strike Fighter will form an essential part of our future combat air capability,” said Hutton. He said UK pilots and military personnel working alongside their US colleagues during IOT&E “will gain an unrivalled understanding of this awesome aircraft and its capabilities.” The F-35B is the short-takeoff, vertical-landing variant of the Lockheed Martin-built aircraft. Overall, the UK, which is contributing more than $2 billion to F-35 development, plans to purchase 138 F-35s for the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy. Lockheed spokesman John Kent told the Daily Report yesterday that two of the three UK test aircraft will be built during the F-35’s third low-rate production lot. The third UK aircraft will be assembled during LRIP 4, he said. (For more read yesterday’s Lockheed release.)