British Ministers have reached an agreement in principle to buy four F-35B combat aircraft to equip the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy. Britain already operates three F-35B aircraft for testing and evaluation purposes, based in the US. Another one is expected to be delivered in early-2016. The four new F-35Bs are expected to be delivered from mid-2016.
In addition to the four UK aircraft, the Low Rate Initial Production lot 8 contract procures 29 US aircraft including 19 F-35As, six F-35Bs and four F-35Cs. It also plans for production of the first two F-35As for Israel, the first four F-35As for Japan along with two F-35As for Norway and two F-35As for Italy.
The LRIP lot 8 aircraft add to some 166 F-35s already contracted under LRIPs 1-7. As of October 2014, 115 F-35s have been delivered from Lockheed Martin’s production facility in Fort Worth, Texas. The US and allies plan to procure 3,100 aircraft over the life of the program.
Michael Fallon, the defence secretary, said:
“This is a major step forward. The Lightning II will equip the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force with a highly advanced multi-role stealth combat aircraft, operating from both our new Queen Elizabeth-class carriers and land bases. This programme is also bringing substantial industrial benefits to the UK, providing thousands of skilled jobs in the UK aerospace industry.”
A BAE spokesman said:
“We welcome today’s announcement by the UK MoD confirming agreement in principle has been reached on an order for the first production batch of four F-35 Lightning II stealth combat aircraft. BAE Systems is a teammate on the F-35 programme, which supports almost 2,000 jobs in our UK business where we build the aft fuselage, horizontal and vertical tails for all three variants of the aircraft.”
The UK intends to order 14 F35Bs by 2018 as part of a long-term plan to buy a first batch of 48. The final contract to buy the four jets will be signed in the next month, the Ministry of Defence said the final price for the four initial jets had not yet been agreed.
Paul Everitt chief executive of ADS (the defence trade association), said:
“The announcement from the MoD that it will soon be ordering the first batch of F-35B operational aircraft is great news for the UK.
Not only will these cutting edge aircraft deliver the best possible operational advantage to our armed services, but UK industry and the broader economy will benefit from our significant involvement in the programme.
Around 15% of each aircraft will be made here in the UK, recognising our world-leading capability in designing and developing future technologies. The programme will create and support around 24,000 jobs in 100 UK companies and their supply chains.”
The average unit price for all three variants of the aircraft in LRIP 8 is approximately 3.6 percent lower than the previous production lot, costs are expected to fall even further.