Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne reportedly plans to announce that Britain is purchasing 138 F-35B aircraft.

**UPDATE - The SDSR has now confirmed this**

The purchase goes far beyond what most defence analysts, including ourselves, expected and is reportedly the centrepiece of the Government’s upcoming strategic defence review.

Mr Osborne said:

“My spending review this week is all about security – national and economic.

By bringing forward the purchase of the world’s most advance stealth fighter jets, we will enhance our ability to respond to threats wherever and whenever necessary. With more jets on board, our independent aircraft carrier capability will be second only to our closest allies, the Americans.

These are versatile multi-role fighter jets, able to engaging in air-to-air and air-to-ground combat, giving us the ability to deal with evolving threats. And of course, British businesses and workers will benefit from this decision too, which is worth £29 billion to the UK supply chain.”

While we’re in rumour season prior to the SDSR, this may simply be speculation. We’ll keep this updated as more details emerge.


  1. Well his form suggests what Osborne gives with one hand he takes away with another..

    This will undoubtedly mean we’re going to lose something else to pay for it.

      • this aircraft is so over budget and has some electrical problems that the main customer the USAF is considering buying more f-16 and F-15 aircraft. if the USAF decide not to buy it it will triple the unit price and we would be better buying three times as many F-18E a fourth generation aircraft that actually works, or contraversuially maybe the Russian Su-35 now they are our new bezzies

    • Not enough you take some out for refit , some get some damage in action you will see the numbers drop quiet fast and if you wait until you need them you don’t have time to build them before they are needed, the crazy thing about war is it comes when you are least expecting it

      • Agree with this comment entirely.
        It is folly to have such an inadequate escort fleet as only 19 frigates and destroyers.
        With the Type 26 frigate order slashed to just 8 ships we will need the proposed new light frigate design to be optimised for close air defence and surface strike/ patrol duties and ordered in adequate numbers to plug a gapping hole in Royal Navy commitments.
        The lack of escorts will only get worse once the new carriers enter service- each carrier will need an escort of 1-2 type 45’s, 1-2 type 26/type 23’s and ideally an astute class SSN to protect it.
        That would leave little/ no reserve for any other commitments. So new light frigate- we need at least 8-10 of those!

    • Thanks you for that lesson… I’ll try hard to understand it! The fact is that while the points you make have some real basis, you are presuming that the Naval staff don’t understand this and have not only calculated what is required but also don’t understand what will be needed in the future. While I agree there certainly is theoretical scope for a few more escorts to assure resilience and battle damage replacements. .. like all 3 services the RN has to operate in a very tight budgetary world these days. Getting more and then having the resources to operate the greater numbers is massively expensive. I’m sure all 3 Chiefs of Staff would love the defence budget to double to be able to do what they really know they are expected to d with the resilience needed. comes down to priorities and at the moment spending what money we have on a full compliment of F35s is a key priority. We are after all also getting the T26 too… Defence budgeting is a complex affair and no amount of wishful thinking can change things without a budget to reflect it. To the present government they feel sanctimonious already in having pegged the budget (as now increased) to 2% GDP. … who’s going to persuade them to spend more? You or I … sadly I don’t think so. If a QE battle group needs to sail to combat. … I have little doubt at least 4 escorts will be found to sail with it. To many in today’s likely scenarios. ..especially in allied ops – that’s enough.

    • Why?They are not all for the navy?
      The A model offers a 3rd better range and Is simpler To operate/Less complex.Also cheaper to buy.
      B model is great for the navy ships but do we really need all of them to be Able to Vertical land?
      The Americans are buying all 3 variants for a reason.

    • Mark agree completely IF (and lets wait til tomorrow) we are getting that many I agree there some mileage in the RAF getting A’s. It wouldn’t cost that more and you are still getting the training and maintenance similarities.

    • Mark makes a fair point. not all F-35 squadrons will be earmarked for rotation onto the carriers. so theoretically they do not all need the B variant.

      however using cold war theory having the B variant will be the better option. IF the F-35 can operate off of adhoc field re-fuel and rearming stations like the Harrier was originally designed to do.

    • But what happens if you have another Falklands scenario? You’d have all these A’s sitting on an airfield in good old Blighty completely useless. By using B’s for both services you can have the FAA & RAF flying from the carriers.

      • The only Falklands Scenario would be.. The Falklands (we don’t have any other territories in a similar position unless you count Gibraltar maybe?). And unlike in 1982, we have a proper military airbase (RAF Mount Pleasant) on the island with four Typhoon. In short, The Falklands already has more capable air-defence than the entire Royal Navy Task Force did.

        We don’t need a carrier in the South Atlantic – the whole of East Falkland is an aircraft carrier!

    • Remember the F35 is only a component alongside the Typhoon which is our principle Air Defence / Air Superiority fighter. The F35 is intended primarily to replace Tornadoes and Harriers in the ground attack / multi-role. There’s no point splitting the fleet into A & B type as we don’t have enough Squadrons to do it, better everyone is B trained. It’s a compromise. Ultimately C would have been best with carriers equipped with catapults… As I said though compromises were made.

    • The A would give the RAF a “day one kick the door open longer ranged “F117” type, leading the way for their not at all stealthy Typhoons. The RAF needs that far more than something that can fly out of a German forest clearing or car park in 1975. There is an reduction in cost benefit to buying some A instead of all B’s and the pilot training and maintenance are close enough to make it feasible and not excessively more expensive. It would certainly be cheaper and more practical than operating a mixed Tornado/ Typhoon force at the moment. Of course this only all works if the RN gets a decent number of B’s……

    • But they don’t have to IF (and I’m not convinced) we are buying that many jets. The FAA can do their thing and the RAF theirs. JFH was a marriage of convenience. IF the RN get 50 jets that’s fine…they didnt need that many SHARs to cover 3 CVS’s (and yes I appreciate the QE’s carry more,) RN B’s, RAF A’s. .best fit for both. let’s just see what tomorrow brings…..

    • I agree with Chris, RAF needs the A. Much more capable than the B, and costs less. The Harrier’s ability to fly from improvised airfields was overblown; in order to do so, it would have had to carry a very small weapons load, and the logistical difficulties would have made it more of a hypothetical capability than anything else.

  2. I’d rather they scrapped the over budget and over complicated F35 and bring back a fleet of Buccaneers, Harriers, lightnings & Jaguars that would shit the life out of ISIS With them lot approaching! 20ft off the deck, armed to the teeth!!

  3. Too many armchair admirals making uneducated comments on this site, based on their extensive knowledge gained from Wikepedia and the Daily Mail. Please, unless you have military experience and/ or work in MOD procurement please stop with the stupid statements. I remember everyone slating the harrier, tornado, typhoon etc etc when they first came into service. They didn’t turn out too bad.

  4. On Andrew Marr this morning, George O appeared to suggest just 24 Jets ‘on the deck’. Unless he meant 24 on each deck. Guess we’ll find out soon enough. 2023 is still a long way off.

    • he means 24 F-35s on board
      taking into account the ship will be carrying about 10 helicopters. that leaves room for around 16 more aircraft should the need arise to carry more fighter wings or a marine detachment

      • If true that’s quite encouraging news. Chatter up to now has been of a typical standard deployment of 12 F-35 with accompanying helicopters surging up to 36 F-35 when necessary.

        I’m not an expert but on other forums a few people who seemed to know what they were talking about were expressing concern that routinely running the carriers with only 12 F-35B created a very different operating environment to a fully loaded deck and might create some nasty surprises re experience and operating procedures if suddenly needing to surge to 36 combat jets when pretty much all previous at-sea deployments had been with a far lighter loading. Routinely deploying with 24 F-35 would seem to lessen that potential issue (if the stuff I read had any validity and it might indeed be an issue).

        I would also hope that our carriers would be quite a frequent host to a few USMC F-35Bs as well so that full-deck operations could be quite a frequent thing. It also becomes slightly less politically embarrassing to do that if the carrier wing is mostly UK F-35 with a few USMC ones now and then vs a situation where half or more of the carrier jets might be USMC on some deployments.

    • We are moving away from GAG to TAG,as discussed many times on this site. Therefore the carriers will only embark a limited amount of F35’s in order to free up the rest for other duties. Why do you need a deck full of F35’s when you are on disaster relief for example. In surge conditions they can carry many more.

  5. Having read the comments here I truly wonder who “UK Defence Journal” actually is! Surely anyone with the slightest insight into the F35 programme and the UK Defence industry knows what an inept and costly decision this is likely to be. It’s purely a political decision aimed at supporting jobs and allies rather than choosing the most cost effective and capable (for UK needs) platform.

    We should take a page from the Canadians book….they’ve realised the F35 does not do do what they need it to do….defend their airspace at the most cost effective price.

    • And that is what the Canadian are after, a moderately decent air defence fighter. Typhoon or Rafele might be a better choice for them.

      We are after a carrier capable, first day of war, multi-role strike aircraft.

      You might also want to consider the differences between through life costs and the fly away costs of aircraft.

    • Well those of us who bother to research things properly, put things in perspective and set against UK defence policy know ful well this is far from a bad decison. Are you one of those armchair pilots too by any chance/

    • Couldn’t agree more Jason. How do you think the through life costs compare for such a technologically advanced aircraft with associated maintenance requirements against say the F18, Rafele or Typhoon?…

      As for a carrier capable airframe, this is only a requirement because of the path UK Gov choose to take. If they’d chosen a cat and trap the F18 or Rafele along with Harrier would have suited that role like it does for the U.S, Italy and Spain.

      As I say, this decision is purely political as it serves to protect UK jobs and political allies in the U.S.

      And yes David, I am an armchair pilot but one whom is informed, educated and who thinks for himself rather than listen to the uninformed “experts” in government….

    • Why bother reading this stuff then? Please offer your comprehensive knowledge of this subject to the MOD. I am sure they will snap you up based on your superior grasp of military tactics and extensive experience in this area.

    • Steve Matterface Sadly Steve your views from the armchair are not as fully informed as you might wish. The decisions on F35 and the carriers were not simply driven by politics. To say so is to undermine an awful lot of research and educated staff work done by many over a consderable amount of time. The UK decison to buy F35B was indeed driven primarily by an operational requirments set. Decisions in the end are always a compromise in such major programmes….. not least because desired capability has to be balanced against budget available, industrial issues and yes in the end politics…but not neccessarily from the cynical and sceptical viewpoit you take.

    • I agree David, touché. Thanks UK UK Defence Journal – same mistake as Jason made originally then? How arrogant to point out my mistake and not his? Quality journalism as ever from those with vested interests to protect 👍🏻

  6. While it’s great that the Government is investing, I read that they will now be reducing the additional Type 45’s and also reducing the new Type 26’s and making heavy cuts to The Royal Navy. This is madness. We must have a Navy that can strike fear into others when the need is called for.

  7. we were never getting additional type 45,s hulls 7+8 were ordered but then deleted after they did the spending review,plus the type 45 is probably one of the world advanced destroyer,s to date as it is designed to protect a whole carrier group,something that has been proved after a major exercise with the usa carrier group…the exercise commander asked our type 45 to turn off it,s defences so that the usa ships had a a chance of playing as the type 45 was spotting and engaging everything…as for the type 35 well i was sceptical but like anything that is new technology it is always going to have things that needs ironing out…the harrier was the same it cost a lot more in the end..there were numerous problems but in the end it became a very good reliable and capable aircraft,with that in mind i believe the f35 will be the same…and when it,s due to be renewed long in the future we will be saying the same thing about the f35,as we are now about the harrier…..

    • Well said Andy. My son is on a 45 and the yanks love em for protecting their carriers. They have problems (including a lack of onboard torpedoes and anti ship capability – harpoon now being retro-fitted) but are extremely capable on the whole with their air defence capabilities beyond almost all other systems available. I think the same will be true with the F35.

    • Unfortunately, as someone once put it to me, while the Type 45 might be twice as capable its predecessor it cannot be in two places at once.

  8. Just an interesting thought: what if the government’s intent is to accelerate F-35 procurement in order to proceed with the disposal of the T1 Fleet at the same time.

    I still feel accelerated F-35 deliveries combined with the retention of the T1s is sadly unlikely. In fact, this entire Review is most probably going to be an unhappy saga, to say the least.

  9. Lockheed Martin fixed the main issues with the F-35 and it entering US military service currently. It is an excellent all-around aircraft and performs well woth the fixes it has received. I would know as i saw them on air bases.

  10. 138 Lightning 2s plus 160 Typhoons upgraded to Tranche 3A standards would provide a pretty powerful air fleet; let us hope teh latter is also included in the SDSR. By comparison, France has 131 Rafales in service, with another 50-60 on order/option.

  11. The carriers can take around 40 aircraft in surge situations, so we need upto 80 to cover both (realistically less, as we also need helicopters, so maybe 40). Now lets forget 2015 and look closer to their retire date of the f35’s and assume the normal situation and we replace near or past that date and consider how many of the tornados are actually currently operational, I believe a tiny percentage. As such 138 might not be such an excessive number, if we really want the ability to be able to operate both carriers in case of a Falkland style situation in 20 years time.

  12. Just read this article and some of the very silly arguments and statements made. Can we just look at some of the points.
    1. The f35b’s range is about 500nm with internal weapons only. Ie a clean airframe.
    2. This means you are in range of chineese and russian made anti ship missiles which renders your aircraft carrier rather vunerable, even with a T45 ridding shot gun since we’ve only got 40 anti air missiles on it it may detect the 41st and 42nd missile but its got nothibg to shoot at it as we decided we would only have 1 T45 for the strike carrier and 1 for the marine amphib force and of the 6 T45’s at least 2 will be in a major refitt and unavailable and 2 in light maintenance.
    3. As to what type. To fill 1 aircraft carrier to max you might get 40 airframes on it. remember you will only have 1 aircraft carrier working as the other will be mothballed as per previous decisions. Out of 48 already ordered we can manage a regular 12 sq on the boat and 24 easily and 36 as an all out effort. So to make 24 regular and 48 airframes on a surge you need about 64 airplanes in 4 squadrons that should be f35b’s owned by the faa. The next 64 should be f35a’s which are faster, longer ranged but still not as good a typhoon or tornado, but at about a combat range of 750nm is better. 4 squadrons of raf planes leaving 10 airframes for ocu/testing units.
    4, remember how ever if you want to have a true strike carrier you need inflight refueling independent of the raf’s a330 fleet means you’ve got to buy a squadron of v22 with air refueling kit on board, you need to convert the 8 hm1 merlins to have enough merlins to provide aew and asw cover.
    5. As to the f35 well lets see, it’s slower than typoon or tornado, it can not out fight an f16 or f15 carrying external weapons, it can not excedd 4.5g manouver because its engines fan blades then rub on the cowling catching fire. It will not carry storm shadow, asraam or meteur until at least 2022 and only if we pay for intergration. It can not physicaly carry theraptor rconasance pod at all, its much fabled intergration will not be working untill 2023 when the phase 4 software is intergrared on it, at the moment the US Marines declarde IOC on a plane that is only at 45% availability rate with Lockheed staff on the USS Wasp doing double the maintanance work that the ships own crew could ever manage. And as for its much heralded stealth, well both russia and china have networked air defences that have pinged f22’s which have a much lower observatility rate, so the f35 is not going to be invisible especialy when you hang missiles and bombs off its wings.
    So bombing arabs with manpsds and ak47’s not so bad but will need large tanker support but for going ip against any high end air defence operated or sold to client states by russia and china forget it. Hence why the US Navy are buying more F18’s but you pay your £12bn cripple your navy by only having 16 escorts with 5 operational at any one time.

  13. I read somewhere that Canada may be cancelling its plans for F35As. If this is true, it bumps the cost per unit up for all F35s.

  14. ok all you experts, just who in the merry hell are we going to war with ? Is all this for ” just in case ” ?if so you are all NUTS

  15. Yea, while Osbourne takes money from those who need it most and are already below the poverty line, he spends money on a plane that is one of the most expensive in history that still won’t work properly…. Also notice how stock prices of all the worlds weapons manufacturers suddenly shoot up after the paris attacks? Funny coincidence!? I think not. UK government can go fuck itself

  16. Australia, Israel, Japan, South Korea, Italy, Turkey, Netherlands, Norway etc must of all got it wrong according to some people.

  17. F35 are a waste of money they can’t even beat a f16 in a dogfight should ave gone with a carrier with cats and traps in the first place brought f/a18es and f e2 Hawkeyes for aew these new carriers don’t ave aew capilities typhoons are not as good as f/a18 any version we need to model our shells like the usmc or U.S. navy

  18. Excellent news that the commitment has been made for 138 F35. however I very much doubt that these will all be the B version. So maybe 48 B and 90 A versions.

  19. Does anyone know what the ratio will be with the RAF/ RN? Or will it be an amalgamated force operating like JFH based at Marham and operate as flights/ squadrons on the carriers?

  20. sadly much of the defence budget went to the carrier build, silly when the u.s has 3 supercarriers in reserve, the j.f.k is on hold for donation or as a museum!i’ve no doubt , the uk could have aquired at least a couple of them for less than the cost of the q.e. the american carriers are fitted with catobar systems which allow the use of a wider range of aircraft cheaper, and already built.the fly away cost of a super hornet(recognised as the best carrier based aircraft, is far lower than the f35.another point in reference to our once great navy is this,every other navy in the world uses the royal navy as a spar shop!the u.k. has become too techno snobbish,sacrificing quantity for quality. the u.s is due to decommision its ticondaroga class, ships, these would cost a fraction of the cost of a new build type 45, plus they are tomahawk capable, and suited to bttlegroup roles(thats what they’re used for anyway!we should not be too snobbish no to ignore the possibilities of foreign purchases, for pakistan,india and even brazil to put more naval assets to sea than wecan, simply shows the precurement staff at the m.o.d are not up to the job.numbrs cn be increased if you shop around i served on a county class floating bomb in the falklands, i’d have felt safer in a rowing boat.


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