By Brenda Goh and Andrea Shalal-Esa
LONDON Jan 23 Britain may announce an order for
14 Lockheed Martin-built F-35 super-stealth jets as
early as next week, three sources familiar with the talks told
The so called 'Main Gate 4' order, for the F-35 B vertical
take-off variant of the Joint Strike Fighter, would mark the
Britain's first firm F-35 purchase since it committed to buying
48 planes in 2012.
It has so far taken delivery of three training jets.
Britain's Conservative-led government was embarrassed by its
decision two years ago to flip-flop on which variant of the
radar-evading aircraft to buy, which cost the British taxpayer
at least 74 million pounds ($122.72 million).
The sources, who requested their names were not used because
they were not authorized to speak publicly, said the order was
for 14 aircraft and that the announcement could come before the
end of January ahead of a visit by Britain's defence secretary,
Philip Hammond, to Washington on Feb. 4-6.
Another source close to the Ministry of Defence said a
decision was due in the next few weeks. The Ministry of Defence
and Lockheed Martin declined to comment.
The F-35, considered to be the world's most expensive
weapons program at $396 billion so far, was designed to be the
next-generation fighter jet for the U.S. Air Force, Navy and
Marines and has been likened to a flying computer with sensors
that can detect enemy threats 200 miles away.
It is being built by the United States, Britain and seven
other co-development partners - Italy, Turkey, Canada,
Australia, Denmark, Norway and the Netherlands.
British companies such as BAE Systems and Rolls
Royce build 15 percent of each F-35 aircraft. The project
is projected to create and support more than 24,000 jobs across
On Thursday, Lockheed's Chief Financial Officer Bruce Tanner
told reporters the company expected foreign orders to increase
further in 2014, with international sales expected to account
for just under 20 percent of the company's overall sales in
He said the F-35 accounted for 16 percent of Lockheed's
revenues in 2013, and that number would grow again this year.