The British aspiration to buy 138 of the F-35B aircraft over the lifespan of the US-led programme is seen as unlikely to be fulfilled.
The UK intends to purchase ‘around 60’ F-35B jets and then ‘maybe more up to around 80’ for four deployable squadrons the First Sea Lord said on Mar. 23, 2021.
The total of 80 is welcome news given the speculation the buy could be capped at 48, the UK Defence Journal says.
According to the recently released Defence Command Paper titled ‘Defence in a Competitive Age’, the UK intends to increase the fleet size beyond the 48 F-35 aircraft it has already ordered.
“The Royal Air Force will continue to grow its Combat Air capacity over the next few years as we fully establish all seven operational Typhoon Squadrons and grow the Lightning II Force, increasing the fleet size beyond the 48 aircraft that we have already ordered.
“Together they will provide a formidable capability, which will be continually upgraded to meet the threat, exploit multi domain integration and expand utility.
“The Royal Air Force will spiral develop Typhoon capability, integrate new weapons such as the UK developed ‘SPEAR Cap 3’ precision air launched weapon and invest in the Radar 2 programme to give it a powerful electronically scanned array radar. We will integrate more UK weapons onto Lightning II and invest to ensure that its software and capability are updated alongside the rest of the global F-35 fleet.”
As we have previously reported, there had been concerns that the UK was to purchase only 48 F-35B jets, down from 138. However, the wider British aspiration to buy 138 of the aircraft over the lifespan of the US-led programme is seen as unlikely to be fulfilled.
“An order for 90 more F-35 Lightning combat jets is to be cancelled in favour of the Tempest fighter, built in Lancashire, while 24 older Typhoon fighters will be retired early. Whole fleets of aircraft will be taken out of service as drones become ever more common,” The Sunday Times said.
This defence review was previously described by Boris Johnson as the largest review of its kind since the Cold War.
In fact, as already explained the RAF plans to retire its entire fleet of 76 Hawk T1 trainer aircraft (leaving only 28 Hawk aircraft in British service, the T2 variant), the Typhoon Tranche 1 by 2025, the Bae 146 as planned by 2022 and take the C-130 Hercules out of service by 2023.
Photo credit: Cpl Tim Laurence/Crown Copyright