UK Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson pitched a strong British military and a new concept fighter jet it’s developing while brushing aside concerns about US President Donald Trump’s rhetoric against NATO during a visit to Washington.
Speaking at an event hosted by the Atlantic Council, Williamson said he’d like to see the US consider purchases of the “Tempest” jet the UK is developing as part of its plans to remain a “Tier 1” military power even after the nation exits the European Union. The defense chief was scheduled to meet Pentagon Secretary Jim Mattis during this US visit.
“Our programme will transform our defense business,” Williamson said. The security chief added that he is “very confident we can produce the world’s best fighter aircraft and something that I very much hope the US Air Force would be looking to buy in the future.”
While UK Prime Minister Theresa May appeared unwilling to say whether the UK is committed to remaining a top tier military power, Williamson said the Tempest is a key part of bolstering the “hard power” that underpins the UK’s “soft power” of global influence.
Referencing US preferences for American weaponry, Williamson said “You do tend to be a tad protectionist on these matters.”
The UK concept jet is the result of a joint venture between Britain’s BAE Systems Plc and Rolls Royce Holdings Plc and the UK arms of Italy’s Leonardo SpA and MBDA, Europe’s biggest missile company, for its modernised defense program. Williamson unveiled a mockup of the fighter, which the UK wants to be operational in 2035, at the Farnborough air show in July.