The UK Royal Air Force has reportedly achieved Initial Operating Capability (IOC) of F35-Lightning II — a stealthy, supersonic, multirole fighter jet — which will be the latest addition to the RAF's fleet.
#NorthropGrumman would like to congratulate the @RoyalAirForce on achieving Initial Operating Capability (IOC) of the F35- Lightning. We're proud of the significant contribution we made to this #F35Programme. https://t.co/U5SL9ikevh pic.twitter.com/WpjcHAHqui— Northrop Grumman (@northropgrumman) January 10, 2019
The latest addition is expected to be announced by the defence secretary in time to counter what was described as a "resurgent Russian threat".
Confirmed by Williamson back in November 2017, the F-35 programme was "set to bring an immense boost of £35 billion into the British economy", and it will be "welcome news to the UK firms that many more jets are now set for production."
Target Acquired: The F-35 enterprise met its 2018 goal of 91 F-35 deliveries — a 40 percent increase from 2017! Learn how we continue to deliver advanced capability required for today's and tomorrow's fights: https://t.co/dBjSqelkpO pic.twitter.com/4ZRvOIXRRC— F-35 Lightning II (@thef35) December 20, 2018
Branded an affordable next generation fighter, the F-35, is set to replace a wide range of aging fighter and strike aircraft currently in the inventories of the US Air Force, and allied defence forces.
The so-called "Russia threat" narrative has been previously employed by the Ministry of Defence to boost the argument for increased funding demands.
In May 2011, Gavin Williamson accused Russia of "aggressive actions" and called on the UK government to increase funding for Royal Navy's modernisation.
The UK has pledged to spend $11.6 billion (£9.1 bn) programme and purchase 48 of the jets by 2025, reaching a total 138, jointly operated by Royal Air Force and Royal Navy pilots.