By Alistair Osborne
Britain's Ministry of Defence is close to placing its first major tranche of orders for the F-35 fighter jet, with an award for about 14 of the “stealth” warplanes due in the next few weeks.
The orders for the new plane, being built in an international project led by US defence giant Lockheed Martin, will signal the increasing role of the British military in the controversial F-35 programme.
But the aircraft is also of vital importance to UK manufacturing companies, with more than 500 British companies, led by the likes of BAE Systems and Rolls-Royce, working on the project.
As the only top-tier international partner, Britain is building 15pc of every jet in a project supporting 25,000 jobs. At peak production, the programme is expected to be worth £1bn a year to British industry. Stephen Ball, Lockheed Martin UK chief executive, said: “The economic story of the F-35 is massive for the next 20 years.”
Costing as much as $1.5 trillion (£910bn) on some estimates, the F-35 project is the most expensive Pentagon defence programme in history, envisaging the construction of more than 3,000 jets.
Britain has signalled its intention to take 138 over 20 years, though the order for 14 jets will be the first firm awards from the MoD so far, apart from the four training aircraft it has already acquired. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/industry/defence/10583321/UK-orders-near-for-F-35-stealth-jet.html