British F-35B jets have taken part in an exercise off the coast of the UK alongside American and French aircraft.

The above image shows a Royal Air Force F-35B, left, US Air Force F-15E Strike Eagle, centre, and French Air Force Dassault Rafale fly behind a US Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker during Exercise Point Blank over the English Channel.

Air Commodore Jez Attridge said:

“The point of the air force, the first point of an air force is to be able to defend the country so you have to recognise the threats out there.

We can see the environment is changing, we can see the challenge that Russia is giving to the international rules-based order so we are the insurance policy and we are recognising that through the scenario that we’ve got, the non-permissive environment, and our ability to operate with our allies, the French and the Americans, is paramount.

“It really is a case of us staying ready so that we can be used if we need to. It’s a great insurance policy.”

The UK recently ordered a new batch of 17 new F-35B Lightning aircraft, to be delivered between 2020 and 2022.

The UK government say it has committed to procure a total of 138 aircraft over the life of the programme. The UK has already taken delivery of 17 F-35Bs.

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 £35 billion into the British economy, and it will be welcome news to our firms that many more jets are now set for production.

The 17 jets being ordered are part of a $6 billion contract for 255 aircraft being built for the global F-35 enterprise.

CEO of Defence Equipment and Support, Sir Simon Bollom said:

“As the largest operator of F-35s outside of the US, the acquisition of 17 more Lightning aircraft underscores our commitment to the programme. This new contract demonstrates how our Armed Forces are equipped by DE&S with the latest equipment and support.”