British F-35B jets have taken part in an exercise off the coast of the UK alongside American and French aircraft.

The above image shows a Royal Air Force F-35B, left, US Air Force F-15E Strike Eagle, centre, and French Air Force Dassault Rafale fly behind a US Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker during Exercise Point Blank over the English Channel.

Air Commodore Jez Attridge said:

“The point of the air force, the first point of an air force is to be able to defend the country so you have to recognise the threats out there.

We can see the environment is changing, we can see the challenge that Russia is giving to the international rules-based order so we are the insurance policy and we are recognising that through the scenario that we’ve got, the non-permissive environment, and our ability to operate with our allies, the French and the Americans, is paramount.

“It really is a case of us staying ready so that we can be used if we need to. It’s a great insurance policy.”

The UK recently ordered a new batch of 17 new F-35B Lightning aircraft, to be delivered between 2020 and 2022.

The UK government say it has committed to procure a total of 138 aircraft over the life of the programme. The UK has already taken delivery of 17 F-35Bs.

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said:

“I am delighted to confirm that we are doubling the size of our F-35 force into a formidable fleet of 35 stealth fighters. This is another massive order in the biggest defence programme in history. Our military and industry are playing a leading role in the F-35 programme.

We are now building this game-changing capability that will soon be ready for frontline action. This programme is set to bring an immense boost of £35 billion into the British economy, and it will be welcome news to our firms that many more jets are now set for production.

The 17 jets being ordered are part of a $6 billion contract for 255 aircraft being built for the global F-35 enterprise.

CEO of Defence Equipment and Support, Sir Simon Bollom said:

“As the largest operator of F-35s outside of the US, the acquisition of 17 more Lightning aircraft underscores our commitment to the programme. This new contract demonstrates how our Armed Forces are equipped by DE&S with the latest equipment and support.”

39 COMMENTS

    • I would think this includes total world wide sales don’t you? What BAE/HMG would really prefer is for the uk for have the bare minimum and to showcase these fighters so more sell worldwide £££

    • Because the cost would outweigh the financial gain to the Country even if it’s better than buying a completely foreign alternative with no return on the outlay. What really brings benefit to us is foreign buyers for the aircraft as there is no direct British outlay while we get income from the sales directly and indirectly.

      • Agreed, although if more countries see the specific benefits of the B variant e.g. austere basing plus UK, Italian (planned) and hopefully soon Japanese non-CATOBAR carrier options etc that increases the U.K. benefit per unit due to the lift fan and maybe other F-35B specific U.K. components as well.

    • I think we have the right idea in ordering over time and not all at the start.
      The F35 will develop over the next 15 years and if we did buy all 138 now we’d have to upgrade them but this way we can buy newer jets later and only have to upgrade the first jets bought.

      • Indeed the early ones will soon become obsolete and difficult, Expensive and eventually most likely impossible to economically update.

          • I can’t remember where I saw the article but there is a particular block where everything made before it cannot be upgraded easily beyond a certain point, while everything after should just be a matter of updating the software. None of it makes sense to me, i just read it and scratch me head.

      • The problem is, however, that we’ll only have 4 operational frontline squadrons of of them. We should increase the order by another 40 or so and stand up 6 squadrons.

  1. It’s a HMG/MOD con to say we’re getting 138 F35s, when at no time will we have even 100 F35s operational, probably far less. We need plenty of other aircraft to give us the numbers to hold out against a sustained attack & provide the ground support & strike missions where an F35 wouldn’t be necessary.

    • We f*ked up by spying on trump on behalf of Obama (to get around their Constitution, prohibiting state sponsored int work on its own citizens.) Trump is raging about this, Theresa Mays breach mutual respect post a private conversation Brexit and our incessant mantra that despite cuts we’re still effective. It’s inevitable the USA will grow tired and look elsewhere.
      If your best mate consistently let you down (ww2, Vietnam , pulling out of Iraq) you’d start to question your relationship and the transactional nature of it.
      Our politicians are so buffoonery they haven’t clicked on yet to this.

      Good roads are being made with ramped up infantry excercises with UK/USA cooperation but that is us using them to keep them on side. They aren’t dumb in the States, they need us to show some cash as well.

          • Actually. I thought it common knowledge that with the constitutional restrictions on homeland spying in the US on the NSA ( which may now have changed ) GCHQ was regularly tasked with providing “take” on US Citizens, and the NSA does the same here. There is a UK facility for this in the US.

            That way, politicians can genuinely say “we” do not spy on our citizens. They don’t say they get their closest allies to do it for them, neatly avoiding the restriction.

            One of the hallmarks of the UKUSA Intelligence agreement.

      • Not sure why u think uk let down US in WW2? I would actually turn that around (corrected in 1941.) also, what about Suez? I think you’ll find the uk has been the most reliable partner over the most years, just with the occasional habit of challenging which is what u expect a good friend to do

        • Julian1
          There is a saying in the US – “A friend will bail you out of jail. A good friend will help you bury the body.”
          Considering Vietnam? No the UK has not been reliable that was a long bloody and sad affair especially for Vietnam. The UK was no where to be seen in those jungles despite professed alliance against communism. I remember that most clearly. America’s most reliable partners have oddly been Australia and South Korea.

          While I don’t think the UK let the US down in WWII. I don’t think there is any case for the US letting the UK down. Roosevelt exceeded his mandate prior to 41 by providing convoy escort, shoot on sight, occupation of Iceland, radioing of German U-boat positions in the clear, signing Destroyers for Bases without Senate approval, also weapons, ammunition, loans, and most important oil oil and more oil. All of which contributed to America not having enough equipment available to fortify the Philippines prior to the outbreak of war. What was done for the Allies prior to December 7 1941 was the most that could be done given American public opinion and views on Europe at the time.

          As for Suez? Whether America should or should not have supported Britain and France is debatable. What Eden should have grasped however is that America would never have blessed or supported what would be seen in the United States as a European colonial war. At the same time it was accusing the Soviet Union as expansionist and tyrannical in suppressing Hungary.

          • To be a real friend or ally is not a test of always doing what the other wants you to do as that leads to disaster as events in Iraq and Afghanistan prove.
            I also struggle to understand any perception that the British Empire let down the US in WW2 as we fought in every major theatre for 6 years and have paid them back ever since for what we received during the war. Surely the US isn’t sore because it didn’t start it!
            It should also be remembered that whilst the US was being beaten in Vietnam the UK was rather busy dealing with post war decolonization and in some cases communist threats in Malaya, Borneo, Cyprus, Aden, Kenya and in a host of other countries. This was repaid in part by some US leaders in open support for the IRA. Fortunately for the Free world these tensions did not effect the UKs and US commitment to NATO and facing up to the Soviet threat.

          • S Korea reliable ally for the US? – oh of course you mean on the Korean border since 1952….hardly on the same scale now is it?
            That said I’m not criticizing the US in any shape or form – indeed I live there – just saying that there are always reasons why the 2 countries cannot engage together all the time. The good example pointed out in Vietnam could be compared to Suez for similar reasons…We could mention Grenada too and then of course you look at US Presidents failure to clamp down on IRA….its all history

          • The United States was at no point being beaten in Vietnam nor did we lose the Vietnam War. In Vietnam no battle or campaign was ever lost we inflicted one of the most lopsided casualty rates in world history on the NVA and Viet Cong. We did NOT lose the war we ABANDONED it.
            The goals of the United States were twofold. 1. Preserve the Republic of South Vietnam. 2. Contain the spread of communism as much as possible.
            The first goal was not achieved due to political and diplomatic constraints. Such as the inability to shift forces out of Europe due to NATO allies constantly undercutting their defense budgets and making it impossible to reduce commitments there. Making further conscription rounds necessary increasing domestic opposition to the war. Another was President Johnson’s preoccupation with the Great Society sapping political capital out of his administration. By the time President Nixon got in office he had no choice but to push for vietmanization of the war. Which I might add succeeded until long after American forces left in 72 as South Vietnam didn’t fall till 75. The only reason it failed was President Nixon’s successor Ford was unable to prevent the Democrats partisan politicking with Military Aid until it was to late.
            As for the second goal of containing communism in Indo-China? There the US succeeded by fighting in various ways for 10yrs we kept the Dominoes from falling. North Vietnam was grievously wounded over the course of the conflict and had they inherited more than a bombed out shell of a country from South Vietnam.
            Had they been allowed to takeover South Vietnam unopposed they would have attempted to spread communism. First to Thailand then to Malaysia (again and in far greater numbers than in the Malayan Emergency) and the Dominoes would keep falling all the way to Indonesia and New Guinea. Cutting off direct access for Australia and New Zealand in the south to America’s other allies of The Philippines, Korea, Japan in the north.
            The US by fighting the Vietnam War prevented that despite being undermined and pissed on by most of NATO at the UN. The saddest part of the whole affair was how many ARVN (Army Republic of Vietnam) veterans died in reeducation camps after the fall.
            As for the IRA? Some US leaders open support? Which ones? No major leader supported them. No Senator, Congressman, Governor, or President ever supported them. The only reason the US kept catching blame was the British Government was unwilling to eliminate the IRA’s main sponsors and sanctuaries in Ireland as that would have been politically untenable. While blaming America was expedient.

          • Vietnam. Britain recognised that that was not a war of capitalism v communist but a war of independence and unification… French and US were always on a hiding but the public spin was the fear of communism… Imho

          • Julian1
            South Korea aided the US in Vietnam throughout losing just over 5000 men KIA and nearly 11,000 wounded. Both Persian Gulf and Iraq war. Along with going into Afghanistan.
            Grenada you mean where acting on a petition of the Oraganization of Eastern Caribbean States and Governor General Paul Scoon restored democracy. While we were in the of free over 600 Americans being held as hostages. Note also the anniversary of the invasion is celebrated in Grenada as a holiday.

        • Pete
          If you believe that you are a fool.
          Tens of thousands of North Vietnamese fled to South Vietnam to escape communism. The South Vietnamese government had their issues but you were reasonably free. That was at least until the Viet Cong would come into your village and torture, kill or rape those who wouldn’t cooperate with them into compliance and assistance or at the minimum to keep their silence as to their activities.
          We were there to fight communists and we did. We killed nearly a million of them. To say this was not a anti communist war is willful ignorance.

          • Elliott, it’s great to, see someone who “gets it” about the Vietnam War. The Asian Tiger economies were given breathing space to explode their development in a way that demonstrated how pathetic the Chinese and North Vietnamese communist scams were. It led directly to the surrender of the Chinese illusion, and the greatest economic event in human history in the liberation of the energy of the Chinese people when allowed some freedom. It’s ominous to see the CPC dragging the place back into the pit.

  2. If Japan go ahead and buy an additional 100 F35s as has been mooted, they will be the second largest operator of this jet outside the US. Japan would have 142 compared to the UKs 138.

      • If threat is imminent then option of procuring the hull and superstructure design of QE would, I assume, remove the need for Japan to undertake extended flight trials of their own design to certify operability of F35b etc… They could still build themselves and potentially fit out internals with much of their own kit but Save a bunch of cost and time in getting to operational status.

  3. Not saying there weren’t bad guys… Have done a fair bit of time in Vietnam with work over past 25 years or and there is just as much distane for the many questionable US actions. A visit to the museum OAA in HCM is an eye opener.

    The difference in culture between North and south is still a stark contrast… But nonetheless… War of unification it was.. And yes the communiists exploited that. As I said.. US perspective… an anti communist war.. And yes it was communists that did the fighting but the ideology of nationalism is powerful all across the planet.

    But hey… It’s just my opinion based on my observations and experiences.

    • I’ve been to that museum and you know what kinda thing you won’t see? What the Viet Cong and NVA did in Hue City.
      To be fair though I will note though is the Government of Vietnam today is far different than the one in the 60s or even the early 80s. These days they are at the point where it seems their communism is marginal. Vietnam is now more of a capitalist country where the ruling party plays lip service to being communist, while being almost as capitalist as the Japanese.
      Also the scenery is one of the most beautiful countries I have ever visited.
      The greatest irony of it all is that America and Israel are now selling weapons and military technology to Vietnam. While Carrier groups resumed port visits there this year. All because there is one thing the Vietnamese hate/distrust more than anything else and that would be the China and the Chinese.

  4. @Elliott
    What astonishing views to hold on Vietnam in this day and age. You seem to have adopted a ‘bury your head in the sand approach.’ History has moved on apace since those old-time orthodox views. I don’t normally comment on these pages, but felt that your blatant ‘everything’s all right down-on-the farm’ comforting homilies for the kids to swallow, deserved some comment. Both Churchill and de Gaulle warned the US against involvement in Indo-China…would Kennedy have committed troops (other than advisors). Kennedy’s untimely demise lead to a series of events that his successor screwed up on. George Ball’s was a lone voice ‘crying in the wilderness’.

    • I read that. I don’t make much of it though; just a couple of senior officers wanting to have F35a variant. Pretty much because they’d like to have their own exclusive planes and not have to share with the navy.

      Idiocy if you ask me; the A variant may well have longer range, payload and be cheaper, but it would limit the planes available for carrier operations.

      My preference would be to just give the navy all 138 of the F35bs and order 80-odd A variants for the RAF, though I know there isn’t the money for that.

    • I read it on Sky News but didn’t take too much notice. I think it’s just a couple of senior officers saying they want their own. The F35a variant does have longer range, greater payload and is cheaper, but really what it comes down to is those senior officers don’t want to share; they want their own versions which can’t be co-opted into carrier use. Somewhat understandable, as they’ve lost so many squadrons of Tornados and Harriers in 2010. But not excusable.

      I think all the versions will be the F35b in the end. Despite the advantages of the A variant, if we’re only going to have 4 squadrons of them then we need them to be as versatile as possible.

      Of course, what would be far better would be to just order an additional 80 or so and make them the A variant. I know money would never permit that.

  5. Not at all opposed to having the F35a variant, but any we purchase should be in addition to the 138 F35b versions, not instead of.

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