When it paid $2 billion to become the sole Tier 1 partner on the F-35 in 2001, the U.K. government was not just investing in military hardware; it was investing in its own industrial base. British companies will make an average 15% by value of every Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) built—not just the 138 jets the U.K. has committed to buy. “The industrial benefit for this country of being involved in this program is huge,” says Stephen Dalton, a former chief of the Air Staff. ...

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