The Farnborough air show opens today with Prime Minister David Cameron announcing a £1.1 billion package of investment in military capabilities such as drones.
Visiting the biennial show in Hampshire, Mr Cameron will be unable to see the new F-35 fighter aircraft which had been due to be at Farnborough today but has still not been given clearance to fly by the Americans following an engine fire in Florida last month.
But Mr Cameron will be in a position to announce the big cash injection, saying that the money f or the “vital” Ministry of Defence programmes has been found as a result of austerity measures and prudent financial management.
The funding pot includes an extra £800 million of investment in an intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance package.
It will bolster special forces’ ability to deal with the threat of global terrorism and hostage taking, according to 10 Downing Street.
A further £300 million will be used for existing programmes, including unmanned aircraft and next generation radars for Typhoon combat jets.
Mr Cameron has warned that Britain must meet the new threats posed by global terrorism and cyber criminals.
Writing in The Daily Telegraph, he insisted Britain “cannot defend the realm from the white cliffs of Dover”.
The PM wrote: “Today’s investment demonstrates our approach to national security. There are those who believe we would be safer if we fundamentally retreated from the world.
“They see new warships and military investment and imagine a Government bent on foreign adventurism.
” But the plain fact is that in the 21st century, you cannot defend the realm from the white cliffs of Dover. Terrorist plots hatched thousands of miles away threaten to cause harm on our streets. When fragile and lawless states fracture, migration flows can affect us right here.”
Touring the show today, Mr Cameron will also outline plans to set up a UK Defence Solutions Centre in Farnborough to develop new defence technology.
A £4 million UK Centre for Maritime Intelligent Systems based in Portsmouth is also being launched as well as a “defence apprenticeship trailblazer” scheme to attract new graduates to the industry as well as develop a new masters level standard in advanced systems engineering.
Mr Cameron will say: “Having modern, technologically advanced and flexible Armed Forces to protect us and our interests is vital.
“Because of the difficult decisions we have taken to tackle the deficit we are able to make these vital investments in our defence capabilities.
“We are also taking action to sustain our thriving defence industry, as part of our long-term economic plan to back business, create jobs and secure a brighter future for hard-working people.”
The F-35B Lightning II jet fighter w ould, but for the grounding after the Florida fire, have been on display when the Queen named the Royal Navy’s new aircraft carrier Queen Elizabeth earlier this month.
The grounding meant the jet was also unable to appear at a military tattoo at RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire this weekend.
Yesterday organisers of the Farnborough show said the F-35 would not be at the show today.
They said: “The aircraft is still awaiting US clearance but we are hopeful that it will fly at the air show by the end of the week.
“Everyone involved in the project is working towards a positive result for attendance at the air show this week, and we fully support the stance to never compromise safety of either pilots or show participants and we thank them all for their continued hard work.”
The show goes on until next Sunday and the MoD has said that even if the F-35 can only appear for a small part of the event it will do so.
The MoD is fully committed to the F-35 in which UK aerospace company BAE Systems plays a major part. The engines are made by Pratt & Whitney of the USA.
Plenty of aircraft will be flying at Farnborough including the famous Red Arrows RAF aerobatic team which have just opened their 50th display season.
Another anniversary is that of US plane-making company Boeing with this year marking the firm’s 40th anniversary of participating at the Hampshire event.
Among planes being shown off by Boeing are the new 787-9 Dreamliner passenger aircraft as well as the P-8A, a military derivative of the Boeing 737-800.
Boeing’s big rival Airbus, whose planes’ wings are made in the UK, will display the A380 superjumbo, the world’s largest passenger plane, as well as the A350 XWB (extra-wide bodied).
The flying display at Farnborough will celebrate 100 years of aviation. As is usual at the show – held every two years – Boeing and Airbus will vie for orders, with some big deals expected to be announced over the next few days.
In London last week Boeing forecast that the world’s airlines will require almost 37,000 passenger planes over the next 20 years.
There will be an announcement at Farnborough this week of a list of eight possible locations across the UK for the first British spaceport.
Representatives from the UK Space Agency will join Government ministers to reveal the potential locations for a dedicated spaceport which they hope will be ready by 2018.
As part of ambitious plans the Government aims to capture 10% of the world’s space market by 2030, citing figures that the UK sector has grown by just over 7% in the past two years, making it worth £11 billion and employing 34,000 people.
The show is expected to attract more than 100,000 public visitors and about 110,000 trade visitors. There are around 1,500 exhibitors and more than 20 aircraft taking part in flying displays.