U.K. to order first batch of operational F-35B aircraft
The U.K. Ministry of Defence has agreed to order four Lightning II combat aircraft. Defence Secretary Michael Fallon has announced that the Ministry of Defence (MOD) has reached an agreement in principle on an order for the first production batch of four Lightning II stealth combat aircraft. It is expected that a formal contract for the F-35B aircraft will be in place within weeks. The contract will form part of the MOD’s investment in Lightning II over the next five years to procure an initial 14 of these multi-role fifth generation aircraft, together with the necessary support arrangements and infrastructure. The aircraft will operate from both the Royal Navy’s new aircraft carriers and RAF land bases. The UK has already taken delivery of three Lightning II aircraft, with another one due to be delivered in 2016. These are being used for testing and evaluation and are currently in the US. The UK’s first operational Squadron in the UK will be based at RAF Marham in Norfolk in 2018, which will become their Main Operating Base. It is anticipated that the contract will be finalized in the coming weeks, which will allow deliveries of the aircraft, within the contract, manufactured by Lockheed Martin, to commence from mid-2016.