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Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Britain signs F-35 fighter jet deal with Pentagon

Britain signed an agreement Tuesday committing to the next development and production phase of the new Joint Strike Fighter, resolving a dispute between the Pentagon and its biggest overseas partner over sharing technology for the advanced fighter jet.

Lord Peter Drayson, Britain's arms procurement minister, said the country has not fully committed to buying the jets, though preliminary plans call for it to buy 150 of the fighter jets, known as the F-35.

After 10 years of development, lead contractor Lockheed Martin Corp. of Bethesda, Maryland, is moving to the early stages of production for what could eventually be thousands of fighter jets for the American military and eight countries.

Along with Britain, the Netherlands and Canada have signed agreements, and Australian officials were in Washington on Tuesday to sign their own deal.

"It will see Australia through the next 30 or 40 years," Australian Defense Minister Brendan Nelson said at a State Department ceremony.

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