Donald Trump says competition in “behind schedule” F-35 jet programme due to come to Norfolk and Suffolk will be a “beautiful thing”
PUBLISHED: 17:13 11 January 2017 | UPDATED: 11:59 13 January 2017
Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
Donald Trump has said the development of F-35 fighter jets which are due to come to Norfolk and Suffolk towards the end of the decade is way behind schedule and budget.
He has promised to introduce “competition”, claiming it is going to be a beautiful thing.
Addressing journalists at his first press conference since US voters backed him in November, the President-elect of the United States said the F-35 programme was “way behind schedule, budget”, adding “I don’t like that”.
He said they were going to do some “big things” on the F-35 programme, adding: “We’re going to have some competition, it’s going to be a beautiful thing.”
He was speaking during his much-anticipated appearance during which he also suggested American intelligence agencies may have leaked a dossier suggesting Russia holds compromising information about him.
The F-35 jets were expected to arrive at the Norfolk airbase RAF Marham in mid-2018 and at the Suffolk-based US Airbase RAF Lakenheath from 2021.
An MOD spokesperson said: “We remain committed to the F-35 programme and believe it offers the best capability for our Armed Forces.”
A £27m contract has already been awarded to build new squadron headquarters at RAF Marham to support the F-35B Lightning II aircraft.
The £100m jets are set to be the most advanced aircraft ever built for the UK, and will be operated initially by the reformed 617 ‘The Dambusters’ Squadron, followed by 809 ‘The Immortals’ Naval Air Squadron, in 2023.
The decision to base the jets in East Anglia has been welcomed by local politicians, and will make the two counties a key frontline fighter base in the UK for the next 40 years.
The UK is committed to buying 138 of the F-35B jets, which are the first stealth aircraft the country has ever owned or operated, and will play a key role in our defence and overseas.
In Suffolk the RAF Lakenheath will need major development in order to house 1,200 extra US Air Force airmen and around 50 new jets.
The USAF announced last year it was creating a “site activation task force” which will look at every aspect of the F-35 deployment.
The base has been the home of the 48th Fighter Wing since the 1960s, with the new F-35s joining around 70 F-15s already assigned to the sprawling Suffolk base.
The UK has been part of the design phase of the programme which has allowed the use of UK weapons to be within the design specification
There are currently around 3,500 aircraft on order across the world.
The programme is managed through a Joint Program Office in Washington DC.
The F-35 Lightning II aircraft will be jointly manned by the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy. It will be able to operate from land or sea, and will form an integral part of the Queen Elizabeth Class (QEC) aircraft carriers.
The F-35B Lightning II will be able to conduct the roles and missions of different aircraft types simultaneously.
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