The MoD has announced the purchase of three of the next generation of supersonic stealth fast jets, the joint stiike fighters (JSF).

The UK variant will be a multi-role fighter / attack aircraft with a short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) capability similar to the current joint force Harrier, and will be able to operate from land bases or aircraft carriers.

The new aircraft will replace the joint force Harriers over which it has the advantage of supersonic flight, stealth, improved survivability and range, and being able to carry munitions inboard and externally.

UK Defence Secretary John Hutton said that the joint strike fighter would form an essential part of the UK’s future combat air capability.

“By purchasing three aircraft for testing, we will secure access to the development of the programme. Working alongside their US colleagues, our pilots will gain an unrivalled understanding of this awesome aircraft and its capabilities,” Hutton said.

“This is a vital programme for UK defence both for the military and for industry, with over 100 UK companies involved in the programme.”

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JSF will fly off the two new Royal Navy Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers. The purchase of three test aircraft will enable MoD to move forward in developing the carrier strike capability.

Compared with the conventional take-off and landing (F-35A) variant already flying, the F-35B has a shaft-driven lift fan mounted behind the cockpit, roll ducts installed in the wing and swivelling nozzle fitted to the engine.

In STOVL mode, doors open above and below the lift fan, a clutch engages to drive the two-stage contra-rotating fan from the engine and the rear nozzle pivots downward to deflect engine thrust.

By Daniel Garrun.