On Thursday, the United Kingdom will become the first foreign country to get the keys to a Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
As a precursor to that ceremony in Fort Worth, Texas, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta presented his British counterpart Philip Hammond with an F-35 model ( U.K. roundels and all) during a briefing at the Pentagon this morning.
“Tomorrow, you’ll get the keys to the real Joint Strike Fighter,” Panetta said.” But until then, I wanted you to have this less expensive version.”
Hammond was clearly delighted to receive the new toy.
“I look forward … picking up our first test aircraft tomorrow,” he said. “Not literally picking it up because it’s a single seater, you understand, so I won’t be flying it back.”
The Brits will fly the F-35B short-take-off, vertical-landing version that the U.S. Marine Corps will fly.