LONDON, Jan. 17 (Xinhua) -- The first of Britain's new fleet of F-35 stealth fighter jets will be operational from British land bases by the end of this year, a spokesman for the British Ministry of Defense (MOD) said Wednesday.
"The program is on target to achieve Initial Operating Capability by December 2018, meaning that UK F-35s will be able to operate from land bases from this point," said the spokesman.
Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson was given an early taste at the Institute for Engineering and Technology in London when he used a flight simulator to "land" one of the new war planes onto the deck of the Royal Navy's biggest ever warship, the recently launched aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth.
"These pioneering stealth jets will protect British lives as we face intensifying and evolving threats at home and abroad," said Williamson.
He said the global F-35 program will support 20,000 British jobs over the 30-year production period, adding that the program has already generated over 12.5 billon U.S. dollars for UK industries.
The jet's unique combination of stealth, cutting-edge radar, sensor technology, and electronic warfare systems provides cutting-edge capability of a fifth-generation fighter, according to the MOD.
Britain currently has 14 of the F-35s based in the United States and operated by around 150 British personnel. The MOD said the aircraft will arrive in Britain later this year at RAF Marham in the county of Norfolk.
Preparation last year for the arrival of the F-35s includes a major investment program which cost almost 350 million dollars at RAF Marham, and a land-based ski-ramp design, similar to the one featured on the new flagship carrier.