Friday, 23 June 2017
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The first of the UK's next generation stealth combat aircraft has today been handedover to the MoD.At a ceremony in Fort Worth, Texas, Defence Secretary Philip Hammond formallyaccepted the first jet which will be known as Lightning II.


The aircraft are Short Take Off and Vertical Landing (STOVL) F-35 Joint StrikeFighters, manufactured by Lockheed Martin.After the ceremony, the UK's new Lightning II jet took to the skies, flown for thefirst time by RAF Squadron Leader Jim Schofield, the UK's lead test pilot.

The UK is the first country outside the US to receive these aircraft and Mr Hammondtoday announced that the MoD intends to order a fourth Lightning II aircraft nextyear to add to the three already on contract.The RAF and Royal Navy will conduct flight trials of the jets which will operatefrom land bases and from sea.

Lightning II will be operational from land based airfields from 2018, when it willalso commence flight trials off the HMS Queen Elizabeth carrier. Mr Hammondannounced that the jets are likely to be based at RAF Marham, Norfolk, but that nodecision has yet been made.The UK will benefit from interoperability with the US Marine Corps which operatesSTOVL aircraft similar to the Lightning II.

The multi-role jet features the latest stealth and Intelligence, Surveillance Targetcquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) technology and represents the cutting edge of
combat aircraft design. Fifteen per cent of Joint Strike Fighter work is carried out in the UK and over 130 British companies contribute to the supply chain. It is worth
over 1Bn to UK industry each year and will support around 25,000 British jobs overthe next 25 years.

After the acceptance ceremony, the Defence Secretary toured Lockheed Martin'sproduction plant with representatives of major UK sub-contractors on the programme,
including BAE Systems and Rolls-Royce.

Mr Hammond said:"This hugely capable combat aircraft is now officially British and in the hands ofour expert pilots. Highly skilled British aerospace workers are also playing a vitalrole in the delivery of Lightning II with UK companies involved in 15 per cent ofthe production and 25,000 British jobs sustained as a result.

"Having taken decisions on the final designs of our new aircraft carriers andbalanced the MoD's budget we can now proceed confidently to regenerating our carrierstrike capability with these cutting edge stealth combat aircraft. "

The Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton, said:"The delivery of the United Kingdom's first Lightning II marks the beginning of anew era in our ability to project Air Power from the land or sea. Alongside ourincreasingly capable combat-proven multi-role Typhoons, the Lightnings provide anadditional complimentary capability to our growing Combat-ISTAR force."

Royal Navy Fleet Commander, Admiral Sir George Zambellas, said:"Jets at sea offer unmatched persistence and can guarantee the delivery of airpoweraround the globe. With the advent of Lightning II, UK Defence has its opportunity tomaximise the utility of our carriers and this extraordinarily capable aircraftthrough a range of sea and land basing options. The result will be a strategiccapability which will deliver for many decades to come."

RAF test pilot, Squadron Leader Jim Schofield, flew the Lightning II in Texas today.He said:"The aircraft flies exceptionally well and I'm very excited about thecapabilities it brings to the UK. It boasts the world's best sensors which allow thepilot to find and target anything that's out there and a stealthy signature whichmeans the enemy can't do the same to you. This revolutionary combat aircraft will provide the best protection for our soldiers, sailors and airmen for the next 35years."

The Joint Strike Fighter was officially named 'Lightning II' in 2006 inhonour of both the US Air Force's Lockheed P-38 Lightning from World War II and theRoyal Air Force's English Electric Lightning of the Cold War.The total number of Lightning II to be procured by the MoD will beconfirmed in the 2015 Strategic Defence & Security Review.

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