The star of next weekend’s Farnborough Air Show is expected to be the F35 – the new jump jet which follows in the wake of the Harrier.
With the RAF having ordered 140 of the American aircraft to populate its new Filton project managed Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers, two Bristol-based firms are set to benefit.
As well as Rolls Royce – which produced the jump jet engines – the big player in the $1.5 trillion F35 project is BAE Systems, which has a 15 per cent share in the aircraft’s development.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning, Ian King, chief executive of BAE Systems, confirmed the F35 programme will be worth tens of billions of pounds for the company in the coming years.
He said the F35 project will become the company’s second biggest programme in three years time, with 160 aircraft a year being produced.
“It’s fantastic that the company is on both the two pre-eminent combat aircraft programmes of our time – typhoon and the F35 where we have a 15 per cent work share, contributing 10 per cent through the UK with the fuselage and 5 per cent in the US with the electronic warfare systems.”
Back in November, the purchase of the new Lockheed Martin F35 fighter jets was speeded up, with Chancellor George Osborne promising funding to ensure the Royal Navy can deploy one if its new aircraft carriers at all times by 2023.
Details of the upgrade were at the centre of the Government’s Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR), set out to the Commons by Prime Minister David Cameron before Christmas.
Mr Osborne said the move would put the UK second only to the US in carrier capability and mean it could respond to threats “wherever and whenever necessary”.
The Government had proposed to have only eight of the US-built F35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft available for deployment to the new aircraft carriers HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales by 2023.
That has now been trebled to 24 – all in strike roles if required – with the 18 others on order being used in the training fleet or in maintenance.
The F-35’s top speed is 1,199mph – or 1.6 times the speed of sound. It can also pull 9G while packed full of bombs and fuel.
The RAF have signed up for 140 of the aircraft during the lifetime of the project.
The F-35 is a single-seat, single-engine supersonic jet with the most advanced computers and networking abilities yet to take to the air, and stealth capabilities designed to make it hard to pick up on enemy radar.