UK says close to placing order for F-35 jets

Sat Feb 1, 2014 12:54pm EST
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By Adrian Croft

MUNICH (Reuters) - Britain is close to placing its first order for Lockheed Martin-built (LMT.N: Quote) F-35 super-stealth jets, Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said on Saturday.

Reuters cited sources last week as saying that Britain was likely to announce an order soon for 14 of the advanced jets, marking Britain's first firm F-35 purchase since it committed to buying 48 planes in 2012.

"We are moving towards that point," Hammond said when asked if he could confirm the imminent order.

"We will have to place a firm order very soon in order to have the first squadron ready to start flying training off the 'Queen Elizabeth' in 2018, which is our current plan," he said in an interview with Reuters Television during the Munich Security Conference.

The Queen Elizabeth is one of two British aircraft carriers currently under construction.

He declined to confirm that the order would be for 14 planes "because we haven't completed the process, but we will be making an announcement in due course".

Britain is expected to order the F-35 B vertical take-off variant of the Joint Strike Fighter.

It has so far taken delivery of three training jets.   Continued...

British Defense Secretary Philip Hammond and U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel (not pictured) hold a joint news conference at the Pentagon in Washington, May 2, 2013. REUTERS/Gary Cameron