Stealthy F-35 Jets to Take Center Stage at British Air Shows

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Stealthy F-35 Jets to Take Center Stage at British Air Shows
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An F-35 Lightning II fighter jet during a test flight.

This summer, two separate British air shows will host the overseas debut of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, a next-generation fighter jet that is being billed as the most advanced warplane of its type yet developed.

Two or three F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, which are capable of taking off on a short runway and landing vertically, will make their first trans-Atlantic flights — from the United States to the United Kingdom — in July, officials from the U.K. Ministry of Defence said.

The stealth jets will be showcased at the Royal International Air Tattoo in Gloucestershire and the Farnborough International Airshow, a weeklong event held every other year in Hampshire, England. [Supersonic! The 10 Fastest Military Airplanes]

The Royal International Air Tattoo runs from July 11 to 13, and the Farnborough International Airshow is open to industry members from July 14 to 18, and to the public from July 19 to 20.

The decision to fly the F-35 jets in the U.K. this summer demonstrates the strong partnership between two nations, said U.K. State Secretary for Defence Philip Hammond. So far, the British Ministry of Defence is slated to purchase 138 F-35s in the coming years, according to Lockheed Martin Corp., the plane's lead contractor.

"The U.S. and the U.K. have worked closely together on the F-35 project from the beginning," Hammond said in a statement. "We are the only country that is a first-tier partner in the project, which is sustaining tens of thousands of jobs in the U.K. This fifth-generation stealth combat aircraft will be a major boost to British combat air power, and it is entirely fitting that the F-35s' first stop outside the United States will be in the U.K."

The air shows are expected to drum up interest in the F-35 program, which has come under heavy criticism for falling years behind schedule and running way over budget. The high-profile events could be an opportunity for Lockheed Martin to demonstrate the capabilities of the stealth fighter jet and attract support from other interested nations.

The F-35 fighter jet is designed to operate from a range of diverse locations, including amphibious ships, aircraft carriers and airfields, military officials have said. In addition to combat operations, the jets can be used for surveillance and intelligence gathering, according to Lockheed Martin.

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