Defence Secretary Michael Fallon has announced that the Ministry of Defence has awarded a £135 million contract to support the F-35 fleet at RAF Marham.

The work will reportedly deliver a new aircraft hangar capable of housing 12 of the new fast jet aircraft and improve existing facilities, including resurfacing two existing runways and taxiways, while the Station remains operational.

The MoD say that Vertical Landing Pads will also be added to RAF Marham.

Defence Secretary, Sir Michael Fallon, said:

“Flying from our new Queen Elizabeth Class carriers, the F-35B aircraft will provide the UK with the ability to project our influence globally. This contract will ensure that RAF Marham has the facilities to match this world-class aircraft when it arrives next year.

Throughout the F-35 programme, British firms have won major contracts creating thousands of jobs. The contract to improve the runways and taxiways as well as installing new landing pads will bring local jobs to Marham.”

A press release recived by the UK Defence Journal states:

“The major investment in RAF Marham is the last of seven projects worth £250m undertaken to ready the Station for the arrival of the aircraft in 2018. The contract has been awarded to a joint venture of Galliford Try and Lagan Construction Ltd, creating local jobs at RAF Marham and across East Anglia.

The F-35 Programme is the world’s largest single defence programme and the UK has played a major role from the outset. The F-35B Lightning aircraft is an advanced, 5th generation aircraft that the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy will fly from Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers or from Operating Bases such as RAF Marham.”

Recently the 10th F-35 for the United Kingdom was delivered by Lockheed Martin.

It is expected that all 138 F-35 aircraft will have been delivered by the 2030s. Around 2023, the Ministry of Defence have indicated that the UK will have 42 F-35 aircraft with 24 available as ‘front-line fighters’ and the remaining 18 will be used for training (at least 5 on the OCU), be in reserve or in maintenance.

Numbers right now are exactly where they’re expected to be and inline with the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review.

2 F-35B in LRIP run 3, 1 F-35B in LRIP run 4, 1 F-35B in LRIP run 7, 4 F-35B in LRIP run 8, 6 F-35B in LRIP run 9, 3 F-35B in LRIP run 10, 2 F-35B in LRIP run 11, 2 F-35B in LRIP run 12
6 F-35B in LRIP run 13, 8 F-35B in LRIP run 14 and 7 F-35B in LRIP run 15. This brings us to 42 in 2023.

The next year and next run brings us to the total of the first batch of aircraft, 48.

14 COMMENTS

  1. Good news for Marham, yet the F35 fleet timeline still looks protracted? Twenty four active airframes seems too low, however, I’m not qualified to know if that is a workable number or not? What does frustrate me, is the MOD’s desire to be rid of the Tornado, even though this rugged workhorse, continues to be permanently on the frontline from Marham. Surely a blanket end of service date could be avoided, by retaining one squadron until Typhoon and F35 numbers reach a credible level.
    In haste, the UK Government dropped an axe on Harrier and Jaguar fleets in a state of panic, knowing very little of what the ramifications would be. Within a short period of time, possibly some Jags could be handed back, from the training school and operated in small numbers, in time of crisis? Sadly, the Harrier story is more devastating. If the Harrier was still in service, its requirements could have been baked into the new carrier spec, and initially operated from commissioning? I’d like to think, the US Marine Harries could operate from the Queen Elizabeth, thus widening operational scope? Knowing the MOD, they might be too heavy thus denying increased capability.

    • The key point raised in your comment MAurice is the one about the Harrier fleet, as esssentially the F35B is a direct replacement for this asset and a re-introduction of a capability gap. The Tornado fleet is totally different.

      So is 24 enough, NO. 32 is 2 squadrons that would allow 8 active, 8 reserve, 8 light maintainance and 8 in deep maintainance.

      To put it bluntly, we need an operational fleet of 128 of these things and that means purchasing probably double over the next 50 years.

      I keep banging on about fleet management but really we should be ordering 8 fighters every single year and not have this boom and bust ordering predicament.

      Let’s not think Harrier – the sooner we get 32 active F35B’s the better for everyone.

      • The decommissioning of Harrier had far reaching consequences, due to the indecision of government during the F35 gestation. At one time, we were to receive considerable numbers of F35’s, then the financial landscape changed, due to pressures beyond the UK’s control, and the unit prices increased along with the plane’s rocky development delays. Due to this upheaval, the UK now finds itself forming an orderly queue, along with a whole list of new customers. So, if the UK wanted to increase its F35 fleet in a shorter timeframe, it would probably fail due to manufacturing capacity. The UK’s dithering on procurement and the advantages of being a principal partner, has resulted in frustration on the part of the RAF and Navy.
        Retention of Harrier, would have allowed the delays and procurement vacillations, to have been absorbed with far less embarrassment, due to the lack of a fixed wing component at QE’s commissioning.

  2. It is utterly criminal the way Lockheed and the US Government have shafted us over the airframe maintenance going to the Italians (after they also got a Final Assembly Line!) and our engines will have to go to bloody Turkey! I mean TURKEY!! What will Marham be? Oh a local store for ‘small parts’.

    Neither Italy or Turkey is a Tier One Partner, neither country is buying as many F-35s as us and neither country is making anywhere near the amount we are. And neither put too much cash up front in development money either.

    Special Relationship? Yeah Right. Bring all our test & development aircraft home from the USA and save ourselves a shedload of money having all our resources over there. And let the Yanks know we are mightily pissed off….

  3. Remember that neither Turkey or Italy have full access to the source code of the F-35B, we do. The relationship is pretty special and includes Trident which they would never share with either Turkey or Italy. They also allow our aircrew to be embedded with them for the last several years to help get ready for carrier strike again. They are sending a USMC squadron to operate on CVFs first deployment and allow us to piggy back their Tomahawk orders. They helped get the Astute programme going after we lost certain key capabilities in that area. What more do you want? They are building about 4000 F-35s and we are only taking 138 over 20 years. The £2.5 billion we contributed gets us the source code and preference in production (it is possible to increase orders-at the expense of other partner nations).

    • This is well said. America looks after America first, always has done and it’s pretty ruthless in that pursuit. Money counts and we didn’t put enough down. It’s not a new Trump phenomenon. Most of our problems are fairly and squarely at our own doors. Without absolving the MOD, our problems stem largely from numbers 10 & 11 Downing St for the last 20 years. I see no sign that this will change with either of the two main parties until there are changes of leadership.

    • Add to that the Hand in Glove relationship between GCHQ – NSA over Sigint, as part of the UKSA Agreement and the “5 Eyes”, and SIS and the CIA, the most important relationships of all.
      I believe there are also close liaison concerning SSN’s, Special Forces, Nuclear Components, and knowledge of advanced aircraft systems and Stealth. The Sensitive Avionics of the F35 will be maintained in the UK at Sealand.

    • Are you sure such an arrangement exists on queue jumping? I’m thankful for your knowledge about the UK’s deep involvement, and that reassures me greatly. However, if the UK did require more F35’s, it may be difficult to interject production schedules? A more likely scenario, could be a short term lease lend from the US fleet?

    • David I don’t deny all you say about the other ways we co-operate although one can observe its because we do spend a lot of UK taxpayer money with US Defence contractors like Boeing and we also happen to be the largest single inward investor into the USA.
      I was referring directly to the F-35 programme and that alone. And on that basis, and as you mention, given both Turkey and Italy are buying fewer aircraft than the UK and have done little in the developmental phases why are they getting these big operations and not the UK? Regardless of whatever else we do with the USA.

      It was only in may 2014 the MoD was promising:
      “RAF Marham in Norfolk is to become the European maintenance hub for the new generation of strike and fighter aircraft deployed around Europe.”

      Its here:
      http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-norfolk-27347336

      So my question is what happened in the intervening 3 years?

    • I assume the £135m includes the servicing contract itself (for how many years?) and the hangar and runways (plus vertical landing pads) is just the infrastructure that has to be built to enable the servicing work to be performed. I could be wrong though, in which case I agree – ouch!

  4. Not sure this is new news, I think this is a rehash of a programme previously announced by Fallon in Nov/ Dec last year.
    Spin.
    cutting through the spin though and looking at actual detail it is clear we are not going to have more than 24 F35Bs available for active service in 2023.
    The whole F35B programme needs better clarification and funding. We need to ramp up the numbers post 2023 so we can have say 96 F35Bs available for active service, which probably means a fleet of about 130-140 jets in total. But this is not the number for the total life of the programme this is the number we need in active service to adequately deploy both QE carriers with an airwing of 36 F35s each and some for reserve/ other tasking. Big commitment and funding needed post 2023 if the F35B is to fulfill its potential in RAF service.

  5. LRIP 10 is expected to be the last run of low rate initial production…after that it will move into Full rate production. Also, this is quite old news, the work is almost complete now.

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