Speaking at RAF Marham, the Defence Secretary announced the UK now has nine F-35 Lightning jets ready to be deployed on operations around the world.
The F-35 Lightnings will form the backbone of the UK’s combat air fleet alongside the Typhoon jets, which Mr Williamson also announced have now been fitted with a state-of-the-art complex weapons suite to vastly increase its capability.
Under ‘Project Centurion’, worth £425m over the past three years, the Typhoon now has deep strike cruise missile Storm Shadow, air-to-air missile Meteor and the precision attack missile Brimstone at their disposal.
It means the jets have boosted capabilities to intercept airborne missiles and strike ground based targets, seamlessly taking over from the Tornado’s attack role as it nears retirement.
Completed on time and to budget, the upgrades transform the fleet into a world-leading multi-role combat air platform for decades to come.
Military engineers and personnel have worked together with hundreds of UK workers from British defence firms including BAE Systems, MBDA and Leonardo to reach the milestone.
The Defence Secretary made the announcement in front of four different aircraft, in a brand-new maintenance hangar at RAF Marham, which he opened along with a state-of-the-art new training centre.
These facilities, along with resurfaced runways and new landing pads to accommodate the jet’s ability to land vertically, are a key part of the £550m being invested in the Norfolk base.
Mr Williamson said: “As we bid farewell to the RAF’s first century, we are setting our sights on the next 100 years. Our nation is moving into a new era outside the EU, and our huge achievements in air capability make our commitment to a role on the world stage clear to both our allies and our enemies.
“The incredible F-35 jets are ready for operations, a transformed Typhoon has the power to dominate the skies into the 2040s and we continue to look even further into an ambitious future. The RAF has long shown Britain at its great and global best, and today it lifts our nation to even greater heights.”
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