Lockheed F-35 fighter
shows off capabilities at UK air show
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[July 09, 2016]
By Andrea Shalal
RAF FAIRFORD, England (Reuters) - Lockheed
Martin Corp's <LMT.N> F-35 fighter jets made their first appearance at
the world's largest military air show on Friday, in what U.S. and
British generals described as part of a larger drive to bolster NATO's
defenses in Europe.
Six F-35 jets, including one owned by Britain, were on display at the
Royal International Air Tattoo, drawing cheers from huge crowds two
years after engine trouble and a fleetwide grounding prevented their
international debut at the show.
One F-35 jet flight simulated refueling in midair, another showcased the
aircraft flying with the F-22 Raptor fighter jet, also built by
Lockheed, and a third showed how the jets can hover and land vertically.
U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff General David Goldfein told reporters the
flights were meant to send a strong signal to Russia and other possible
foes about NATO's resolve.
"This is a message to anyone internationally about what we bring to the
fight with our coalition partners," he said, adding that the new jets'
ability to gather and share intelligence represented the future of
The flights came as NATO leaders agreed to deploy military forces to
Eastern Europe and increase air and sea patrols to reassure allies who
were once part of the Soviet bloc following Russia's seizure of Crimea
Launched 15 years ago, the world's largest weapons program was plagued
for years by cost overruns and technical challenges, but with more than
180 F-35 jets now flying it is finally hitting its stride.
Production costs are coming down, the U.S. Air Force is poised to
declare an initial squadron of jets ready for combat later this year,
and new customers including Belgium and Switzerland are interested in
buying the planes.
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A RAF Lockheed Martin F-35B fighter jet hovers while landing during
a flying display at the Royal International Air Tattoo at Fairford,
Britain July 8, 2016. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls
Lockheed is building three variants of the plane for the U.S. military, Britain,
Turkey, Australia, Italy, Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands, Israel, Japan and
South Korea. It expects to sell 3,000 jets in coming decades, with production
expected to peak at around 170-180 airplanes a year around 2023, according to
The U.S. Marine Corps last week launched a second operational squadron of jets,
and will send an initial squadron of 10 jets to Iwakuni, Japan, in January, said
U.S. Lieutenant General Jon Davis, deputy Marine Corps commandant for aviation.
"This program is maturing. We're building mass and velocity, capability and
confidence," Davis said in an interview.
Minister of Defence Procurement Philip Dunne said Britain was on track to
declare an initial operational capability of the F-35 jets in 2018, and they
would be deployed at sea once the new Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier was done.
(Editing by Matthew Lewis)
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