"Russia will be watching" the UK when the country's F-35B stealth fighter jets touch down at their new home in Norfolk next month.

Lightning Force commander Air Commodore David Bradshaw made the comments as the Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson announced the multimillion-pound warplanes will start arriving at RAF Marham in June, two months ahead of schedule.

The supersonic aircraft have been based in the US since their manufacture, being tested and used for training by Royal Air Force and Royal Navy pilots.

The Defence Secretary told Forces News: "We're going to be standing up 617 Squadron, making them ready, be flying and actually playing a really important role in keeping Britain safe.

"They will be absolutely transformational.

"With the Tornado leaving service it's really important that we have that new capability coming in, in order to deliver British presence right around the world.

"They will play such an important and pivotal role in terms of what we do with our aircraft carriers.

'F-35B will be transformational' - Gavin Williamson.

In recent months, both the National Audit Office and Public Accounts Committee have warned of a blackhole of between £4.9 and £20.8 billion in the defence budget.

Mr Williamson however insisted funding is not an issue for the new stealth fighter jets.

"We've absolutely got to afford the F-35 and can afford the F-35."

Air Commodore Bradshaw said it will be a "hugely significant" moment when the F-35 jets arrive at RAF Marham.

Noting how F-35 Lightning aircraft are also set to start arriving in countries including Norway, Denmark, Holland, Italy and Australia, as well as other allies and partners, he said Russia would be watching, but stated:

"They will be watching many others as well. Obviously, the growth of the capability in the US is a significant factor also."

"I will be intrigued to know whether they'll be looking at us with any special view, but clearly the increase in capability that F-35 brings is a fundamental moment for us all."

The UK is embarked on a £9.1 billion programme to buy 48 by 2025 of the F-35, the world's most advanced fighter jet, from American aviation giant Lockheed Martin - but has pledged to purchase 138.

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