British F-35B Lightning takes to the skies equipped with UK weaponry
The long awaited F-35B Lightning has carried out initial air trials equipped with UK-built weaponry, Defence Minister Stuart Andrew has announced during a visit to the Defence Electronics and Components Agency (DECA) in Wales.
From Edwards Air Force Base in southern California, the F-35B took to the skies, flown by a British pilot from RAF 17 Squadron and carrying a payload of ASRAAM air-to-air missiles on board. Built by MBDA in Bolton, the ‘Advanced Short Range Air-to-Air Missile’ will allow pilots to engage with and defend against hostile aircraft ranging in size from large multi-engine threats to small unmanned aerial vehicles.
“The F-35 Lightning fleet has moved another step closer to defending the skies and supporting our illustrious aircraft carriers with this landmark flight,” said the Defence Minister. “Exceptional engineering from the UK is not only helping to build what is the world’s most advanced fighter jet, but is also ensuring that it is equipped with the very best firepower.
“This flight by a British pilot, in a British F-35 jet with British-built weapons is a symbol of the major part we are playing in what is the world’s biggest ever defence programme, delivering billions for our economy and a game-changing capability for our Armed Forces.”
According to Ministry of Defence statistics, British industry is building 15% (by value) of all 3,000 F-35s in-production. It is thought that £35 billion will be funnelled into the UK economy through the programme, with around 25,000 UK jobs supported. The DECA site will also become a global repair hub for the fighter jet. Here, critical maintenance will take place as avionics systems are repaired and overhauled.
The RAF Marham-based 617 Squadron will carry out their own weaponry flights over the course of the next few months.
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