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  • U.K. F-35 Ready for Takeoff (Update)
    Posted by Robert Wall 2:42 PM on Apr 11, 2012

    The first U.K. F-35 is about to take to the air.

    BK-1, as the test aircraft is designated, could start flying today, weather permitting. The flight would take place at Lockheed Martin's Fort Worth facility. The aircraft was rolled out in November.

    blog post photo
    (Photo: Lockheed Martin)

    It will be the first aircraft built for a non-U.S. customer to be airborne. The Netherlands is due to be second in line. Its first fighter rolled off the production line this month.

    The U.K. is buying three test aircraft. BK-1 and BK-2 have been built. The plan for the third is uncertain, as is much of the U.K.'s overall F-35 plan. They are tangled in the muddle of the long-delayed PR12 program review.

    The U.K., which initially was going to buy Stovl F-35s, two years ago opted to purchase F-35Cs instead. With that decision, it worked out a deal with the U.S. to swap BK-3 (the third test aircraft) for a C-model (CK-1).

    Now, however, London is thinking about reversing course, after realizing that it may be more expensive over the life of the entire carrier-strike program to shift to the F-35C. The decision of whether to return to the F-35B is to be finalized as part of PR12, which London has been slow to complete as it struggles to balance the books in the budget update.

    Parliament is due to return from recess next week. But don't necessarily expect a quick resolution of PR12 and, with it, a resolution of the F-35B versus F-35C discussion in the U.K.

    Tags: ar99, tacair, jsf

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