Britain’s newest fighter jets have been declared “combat ready” and will soon be deployed on operations.
Sky News understands a plan is being drawn up for the jets to be sent to RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus this spring.
If initial operations run smoothly, it is possible that they could be used on strike missions against Islamic State (IS) in Iraq and Syria by the summer.
Speaking at their home base, RAF Marham in Norfolk, Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said: “The incredible F35s are ready for operations.
“I won’t go into specifics (on) where they’re going to be deployed (but) this is a fighting aircraft that is there to be used and to keep Britain safe.
“Just in the last 19 days we’ve seen 10 strikes against Daesh (IS). We cannot be complacent, we cannot sit back, we cannot take it for granted that Daesh would be defeated.”