The UK Government has signed a multi-million-pound contract for 17 additional F-35B Lightning II combat jets.

The new order will double the UK current F-35 stealth jet fleet to 35 by the end of 2022.

In total, the country has committed to acquire 138 F-35 joint strike fighters (JSFs) over the programme’s lifetime.

The new short take-off / vertical landing (STOVL) fighter aircraft variant are slated to be delivered to the country between 2020 and 2022.

These additional F-35Bs will join the existing fleet of 16 UK aircraft currently based at the Royal Air Force (RAF) Marham and in the US, in addition to the two jets, which are already on order.

“It will be welcome news to our firms that many more jets are now set for production.”

British manufacturing companies are expected to produce 15% of the overall global order for 255 JSFs valued at $6bn.

The F-35 programme is estimated to generate approximately £35bn to the UK economy, supporting nearly 25,000 job opportunities in the country.

UK Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said: “I am delighted to confirm that we are doubling the size of our F-35 force into a formidable fleet of 35 stealth fighters.

“This is another massive order in the biggest defence programme in history. Our military and industry are playing a leading role in the F-35 programme.

“We are now building this game-changing capability that will soon be ready for frontline action. This programme is set to bring an immense boost of £35bn into the British economy, and it will be welcome news to our firms that many more jets are now set for production.”

Currently, the F-35B Lightning II jets are embarked on the Royal Navy’s lead Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth to conduct flying trials in the US.