Britain to unveil model of planned new fighter jet

A Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jet. (Bloomberg pic)

FARNBOROUGH: Britain’s Defence Minister Gavin Williamson will unveil a model of the country’s proposed new fighter jet at the Farnborough Airshow and earmark 2 billion pounds (US$2.7 billion) in funding for the project, a source close to the matter said on Monday.

The aircraft, which will eventually replace the Typhoon fighter jet, will be developed and built by partners BAE Systems, Rolls-Royce and Leonardo, the source said.

Britain is in talks with other countries to find more companies to help develop the jet, the source added, with Sweden seen as the most likely partner, although countries such as South Korea, Japan and Turkey, or Gulf arms-buying countries like Saudi Arabia, are also possibilities.

Under the plans, the new jet will be operational by 2035, ready to replace the Typhoon fleet, which is due to be retired in 2040.

The UK-led project comes as Britain is due to leave the European Union in less than nine months.

It will face competition from a rival European project after France announced in June that it would take a leading role on a new fighter programme, saying it would start as a bilateral effort with Germany that could be expanded later.

The Typhoon, in contrast, was developed by the four-nation group of Germany, Spain, Britain and Italy in the 1980s.

Britain has not developed a fighter jet alone since the 1960s. However, it has helped to develop and build the most advanced stealth fighter in the UK fleet, which is the US-made F-35, with BAE Systems carrying out about 15% of the work on each jet.

Airbus and its long-time rival, France’s Dassault Aviation, have agreed to work on the Franco-German project together.