CONTRACTS for the first batch of fighter jets for the Royal Navy’s new aircraft carriers have been hailed as a key milestone by the Ministry of Defence’s spending chief.
Bernard Gray, the Chief of Defence Materiel, said the military is on target for operational capability on land and at sea with the aircraft.
It comes after the MoD signed the contract for the first 14 jets, some of which will fly from HMS Queen Elizabeth when she is based in Portsmouth.
Mr Gray said: ‘Signing the contract paves the way for the first batch of operational combat aircraft.
‘By reaching this milestone, we remain on target for achieving both operational capability from land bases and the start of flying trials aboard the carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth in 2018 for this highly advanced multi-role stealth combat aircraft.’
The F35B Lightning II combat aircraft will operate from the navy’s carriers and RAF land bases, as part of the MoD’s investment over the next five years to procure an initial 14.
Minister for defence equipment, support and technology, Philip Dunne, added: ‘The aircraft will be a powerful testament to the strength and capability of British industry.’
The UK already has three F35B jets, which are based in the Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, and a fourth will be delivered in early 2016.