Funding has been delegated for an additional tranche of F-35B jets for Britain beyond the 48 already ordered.
The information came to light in the following exchange.
Kevan Jones, Member of Parliament for North Durham, asked via a written Parliamentary question:
“To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, when the planned equipment investments for (a) A400M and (b) F-35b will be delegated to the RAF’s TLB.”
Jeremy Quin, Minister of State at the Ministry of Defence, responded:
“Funding for a second tranche of F-35 Lightning has been delegated to Air Command as part of our recent annual budget cycle. Funding for Atlas A400M which not yet been delegated. A decision on future tranches of F-35B will be made in due course.”
For more on the planned additional A400M purchase see here, now, on to the F-35B.
I reported around Christmas time that the UK was undertaking “detailed analysis to evaluate the scale and timeline” for a purchase of a second tranche of F-35B Lightning aircraft.
Jeremy Quin, Minister for Defence Procurement, stated in December 2021:
“The 2021 Integrated Review confirmed our ambition to continue the growth of the UK Lightning Force beyond 48 aircraft. We are currently undertaking period of detailed analysis to evaluate scale and timeline for procurement of our second tranche of F35B Lightning aircraft together with associated infrastructure and support requirements.”
The United Kingdom recently made it “absolutely clear” that it will operate more than 48 F-35 jets (now 47), according to a senior defence minister.
At a recent session of the Defence Committee. focussing on the Royal Navy, it was stated by Jeremy Quin, Minister for Defence Procurement, that:
“As you know, we are going to acquire 48. We have made it absolutely clear that we will be acquiring more. We have committed to have 48 in service by 2025, and we will be acquiring more. We have set that out in the IR. We will set out the exact numbers in 2025. The 138 number is still there. That is a defined number and we are looking at keeping these aircraft carriers in operation for a very long period of time. I am not dismissing that number either. We know that we have 48 to which we are committed, and we know that we will buy more beyond that.”
How many are expected?
The former First Sea Lord said during a webcast earlier this year that the UK intends to purchase ‘around 60’ F-35B jets and then ‘maybe more up to around 80’ for four deployable squadrons. A defence insider informed the UK Defence Journal of a live webcast given by the previous First Sea Lord.
“The First Sea Lord has just said 60 F-35, then maybe more up to around 80 for 4 deployable squadrons.”
According to the 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.”
The potential total of 80 is welcome news given the speculation the buy could be capped at 48.