THE prototype of the Royal Navy’s next generation of fighter jet has taken to the skies for the first time over Texas – while the government mulls changes to Britain’s aircraft carrier programme.
The trial plane of Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Lightning II is a jump jet F-35B version. This, like the navy’s old Sea Harriers, uses its engines to propel it into the air on take off and landings – known as short take-off, vertical landing.
It’s what was ordered by the previous Labour government but cast aside by the coalition in the 2010 defence review which opted for the cheaper, longer-ranged F-35C variant of the jets.
F-35Cs need catapults and arrestor wires to be fitted to a ship to help them take off and land.
However, after a study found it will cost an extra £1.8bn to fit the gear to just one of the navy’s new £5.2bn warships, it seems certain that the government will do a U-turn and buy F-35Bs after all.