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Defence Secretary, MPs and US Ambassador try their hand at ‘flying’ an F-35 jet

Gavin Williamson was among those who experienced the cutting-edge technology by climbing into a flight simulator.

MPs, lords and the US ambassador have all tried their hand at flying one of Britain’s new multi-million pound stealth fighter jets  by climbing into the cockpit of a flight simulator.

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson was among those who experienced the cutting-edge technology, even practising landing and taking off from a computer-generated HMS Queen Elizabeth.

He was guided through the process on Wednesday by Squadron Leader Andy Edgell and Lieutenant Commander Adam Hogg, two of the UK’s F-35 pilots putting the jet through its paces in the US.

Speaking after flying in the simulator, at an event at the Institute for Engineering and Technology in London, Mr Williamson said: “These pioneering stealth jets will protect British lives as we face intensifying and evolving threats at home and abroad.

“The F-35 is the most advanced and dynamic fighter aircraft in our history, and will defend this country from terrorists, collect crucial intelligence, and safeguard our national interests from those who seek to do us harm.”

The UK’s £9.1 billion programme to buy 48 of the F-35’s, the world’s most advanced fighter jet, over the next decade, has come under fire over capability and expense.

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Reports have suggested the effective cost of each plane is as much as £150 million when logistics and support are taken into account.

Andrew Linstead director strategic engagement at Lockheed Martin UK said lots of MPs and members of the House of Lords attended the event to learn about the jet and the role of UK industry.

“I think the general reaction has been very positive to what we have had to say, and it is part of a process of helping people trying to understand the programme and the capability the aircraft is going to bring,” he said.

He said, as a company, Lockheed Martin, the American aviation company building the jets, has tried to be as honest as possible.

“The biggest question on everyone’s mind is always the affordability question, we are totally focused on driving those costs down,” he added.

Others who also experienced the cockpit demonstrator included Armed Forces Minister, Mark Lancaster, shadow defence secretary Nia Griffith, and America’s ambassador to Britain, Woody Johnson.

Britain currently has 14 F-35s based in the US which are operated by more than 150 UK personnel.

These aircraft will arrive at RAF Marham in Norfolk later this year, and initial flight trials will take place off the deck of the £31.billion aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth, in the autumn.

Operated jointly by the Royal Navy and RAF, the jets will fly from the UK’s new aircraft carriers and land bases, with the latter on track to happen operationally by December 31.

At the event Mr Williamson also met with representatives from some of the 500 UK companies who are involved in the F-35 supply chain, with 15% of each jet provided by British industry.

Lockheed Martin UK chief executive Peter Ruddock said, to date, the F-35 programme has generated 12.9 billion dollars in contracts for British suppliers, with more than 3,000 jets expected to be built.

He said this investment will “grow as we ramp up towards full rate production”, and that the jets will provide Britain’s armed forces with a “game-changing capability” that will allow the navy and RAF to “project power around the world for decades to come”.

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