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East Lancashire built fighter jet to make its UK debut
A FIGHTER plane partly made in East Lancashire, touted as the future of the RAF, is set to make its UK debut this week.
In total, four F-35 Lightning II jets are expected to appear at the Farnborough Air Show in Hampshire, which starts tomorrow and runs until Sunday, after making the transatlantic trip from its base in the US.
The rear section of the plane is made at defence giant BAE’s base in Samlesbury in the Ribble Valley.
The plane was due to make it’s UK bow at the Royal International Air Tattoo at RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire but was grounded following a fire on one of the jets last week.
Engineers in the US, who are one of the partners in the F-35 project, worked to discover the cause and grounded the fleet, forcing the F-35 to miss Friday’s event.
A spokesman for the Ministry of Defence said: “The safety of pilots and aircraft has to be our priority.
“We fully support the decision not to grant clearance for the aircraft to make their first transatlantic flight to the UK until the technical investigations are complete.
“The UK remains fully committed to the F35 programme.
“Technical issues are not unexpected during the development test phase of a new aircraft, especially one as advanced as the fifth generation Lightning II.
“The grounding is not expected to have a significant impact on the programme and we are on track for the UK's aircraft to achieve their initial operating capability in 2018.”
Later in the decade, the F-35 will fly off the new Queen Elizabeth Aircraft Carrier which was named last week.
It can take off on a short runway and land vertically, like its predecessor the Harrier.
Different versions are being built by Lockheed Martin for the US Marines, US Air Force and the US Army.
The UK is known as a ‘Tier One’ partner, meaning it’s the most important contributor after the Pentagon.