U.S. sending F-35 fighters to Europe for training - Pentagon

An F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter takes off on a training sortie at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida in this March 6, 2012 file photo. REUTERS/U.S. Air Force photo/Randy Gon/Handout ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY - RTSKP5Y

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Air Force will this weekend deploy a small number of F-35A fighter jets to Europe for several weeks of training with other U.S. and NATO military aircraft, the Pentagon said on Friday.

In a statement, the Pentagon said that the deployment would allow the U.S. Air Force to "further demonstrate the operational capabilities" of the stealthy fighter jet. It did not name the countries where the aircraft would be deployed to.

The F-35, which is the Pentagon's costliest arms programme, has been dogged by problems. The Pentagon's chief arms buyer once described as "acquisition malpractice" the decision to produce jets before completing development.

During last year's election campaign, President Donald Trump criticized Lockheed Martin Corp for the F-35's cost overruns.

Days after taking office in January, Trump announced his administration had been able to cut some $600 million from the latest U.S. deal to buy about 90 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters.

The United States is expected to spend some $391 billion over 15 years to buy about 2,443 of the F-35 aircraft.

F-35s are in use by the U.S. Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy, and by six countries: Australia, Britain, Norway, Italy, the Netherlands and Israel. Japan took delivery of its first jet in December.

Lockheed said last month that Spain, Belgium and Switzerland were in talks with the company about buying F-35s.

(Reporting by Washington Newsroom)

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