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The UK Royal Air Force and Royal Navy are to get a force of the world’s most advanced stealthy supersonic jump jets to equip both the new class of two large aircraft carriers and to fly from shore bases.
Up to 150 Short Take Off and Vertical Landing (STOVL) versions of the new the Lockheed Martin F35s, which MoD has chosen as having the best potential to replace both land-based and carrier-based Harrier aircraft, are planned in a programme worth up to £10 billion. They will enter service with the first of the new carriers in 2012.
Lord Bach said: “”This is a critically important decision. We have chosen this variant, which is the one being bought by the US Marine Corps, because it fully meets our military needs – and it builds on Britain’s unique and valuable knowledge of STOVL aircraft acquired during nearly four decades of operations with Harrier on land and at sea.
“”We have also made a key decision on the design of the new carriers. These ships must have the maximum flexibility to meet our defence needs throughout their service lives of up to 50 years. That is why we’ve decided they will be built to an innovative ‘adaptable’ plan so that they will operate STOVL F35 aircraft, but can be modified to fly the generation of aircraft – which might possibly be unmanned combat aerial vehicles – even beyond the F35, whether or not these too are STOVL. This represents a sensible way to maximise the benefits of our investment in the carriers, and is good long term value for money.””
Industry estimates that some 3,500 jobs could be created or sustained by work on the F35 in the UK, rising to 8,500 once the aircraft moves into production and then into service. The total value of the F35 programme, including exports, to UK industry could be as much as £27 billion. More jobs will be sustained in the UK shipbuilding industry on the carriers.
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