Defence secretary John Hutton has announced that the Ministry of Defence (MoD) is to purchase three Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) aircraft for test and evaluation.
Scheduled to replace the UK’s Joint Force Harrier jets, the multi-role fighter/attack JSF will be able to operate from land bases and the Royal Navy’s new Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers. The purchase of three test aircraft will enable the MoD to move forward in developing the Carrier Strike capability.
‘The Joint Strike Fighter will form an essential part of our Future Combat Air Capability,’ said Hutton. ‘By purchasing three aircraft for testing, we will secure access to the development of the programme. Working alongside their US colleagues, our pilots will gain an unrivalled understanding of this awesome aircraft and its capabilities.’
According to the MoD, JSF will provide the UK with a so-called ‘fifth-generation’ tactical air system. Advantages over the Harrier are said to include supersonic flight, stealth, improved survivability and range. Vertical lift will be provided by a fan system developed by Rolls-Royce.
Compared with the conventional take-off and landing (F-35A) variant, the F-35B has a shaft-driven lift fan mounted behind the cockpit, roll ducts installed in the wing and swivelling nozzle fitted to the engine.
The MoD is a partner in the JSF programme and is investing £2bn to develop the aircraft. Over 100 UK companies are involved in the programme, ranging from major UK JSF industrial partners down to lower tier suppliers of composite materials.