Despite an earlier commitment to buy 138 F-35B jets, it has been suggested that the overall number could eventually fall.

Lieutenant General Mark Poffley, deputy chief of the UK defence staff, told MPs today that he was “sympathetic” to the idea that the overall number could decrease.

Stephen Lovegrove, a senior civil servant at the MoD, revealed that the cost of the first tranche of 48 could rise from £9bn in 2025 to £13bn in 2048.

Julian Lewis MP commented “we are going to have to adjust the numbers of these aircraft that we order.”

He later added:

“What’s clear then is that the 48 are safe, secure, done and dusted as it were as far as the financial cost is concerned, but after that there is inevitable uncertainty, that’s what you are telling us?”

“That’s the reality of the world we are living in,” Pofley replied.

Lockheed say that at peak, the F-35 will support 25,000 jobs in the UK over the next few decades and pump £1bn a year into the economy.

Marillyn A. Hewson, President and Chief Executive Officer of Lockheed Martin said:

“It is going to support 25,000 jobs in the UK.”

Cliff Robson, Senior Vice-President for the F-35 Lightning II programme at BAE Systems, said in an interview, referring to the estimated British 25,000 jobs either directly created or supported in the F-35 supply chain.

“It’s cheap when you look at what that investment is returning to the UK.”

When the jet reaches peak production, the programme will be worth some £1 billion to UK industry alone, according to research by KPMG the accounting firm. An estimated 25,000 UK jobs will be sustained across more than 500 companies in the supply chain.

The F-35 features a significant amount of British developed components, in addition to 15% of every jet sold globally being built in Britain.

As the only Level 1 partner, the United Kingdom has garnered tremendous economic benefits from the F-35. British industry will build 15% of each of the more than 3,000 planned F-35s, in addition to a large volume of British developed aircraft systems including the electronic warfare suite.


0 0 vote
Article Rating
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Levi Goldsteinberg

Cut money from elsewhere, lord only knows how much money is wasted on bureaucracy and inefficient spending in the NHS as well as the shameful Foreign Aid Budget, take money from there and stop crippling our until recently proud and powerful armed forces

david simpson

The foreign aid budget is not may be dysfunctional and odd in part but that’s no different from any Departmental budget. Cut the NHS? Dream on…its just had another £3.5Bn thrown at it……


I beg to differ David; 13.5bn/yr is completely irresponsible given the pressure on public finances across all departments not just defence. First order of business of HMG is the welfare of our own before others. Every other country does it and I would expect them to do no less.

I’m not against Foreign Aid but 0.7% GDP – why does it have to be written into law? It’s simply absurd!

barry white

Was we asked to spend that amount on Foreign Aid?
The answer is no
Take the amount that is the great British public give to charities to spend abroad and the amount is astronomical
Funny how those African countries can find the money for arms to massacre each other yet rely on foreign aid feed there people


I love the NHS, but think about this. It’s the second most funded area of government after pensions. It’s the fifth biggest employer on the planet. Yet every year they scream that there is no money left and not enough personnel. Theres something shady going on in the NHS. I think if someone took a look at their finances the controversy would blow the MOD ‘black hole’ out of the water.

Andrew Deacon

They were never going to order 138 anyway, that much was obvious when they announced just 4 squadrons and an OCU or 12 aircraft each. You don’t need 138 planes to keep 60 operational , especially when 75% of training is said to be simulated. Consider also a fleet of 160 Typhoons (maybe a bit less) will keep 7 squadrons plus ocu’s going. 80-90 planes will suffice. And of course with the production line supposedly open to 2038 there’s always the opportunity to buy a handful more if the attrition rate is unexpectedly high. I suspect the pretence has been… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli


I’d say an UCAV will replace the Typhoon in time.


It will be f35 A not B which is cheaper and arguably better

david simpson

No its not. You fail to appreciate the complexities of running a small fleet within fleet and what reduced economies of scale there would be by operating a smaller F35B fleet… a separate training line and additional infrastructure at another base…its not the cheaper option at all..whatever small improvements in capability the A might deliver.


Stephen Lovegrove, a senior civil servant at the MoD, revealed that the cost of the first tranche of 48 could rise from £9bn in 2025 to £13bn in 2048.

Meanwhile in the real world the price of the F35 has actually fallen

John West

Very true – but the pound is worth significantly less now. What scares me is how much further Mr. Lovegrove seems to think it has to fall.


John west – I suspect this is inflation accounting not exchange rates being used. After all who knows what the £ will be in 30 years time. He is discussing the difference in 20 odd years. £9 Bn in 1997 is worth some £15.5 Bn today. So he is on the light side But given the reduction in price even though we are still in LRIP numbers his forecast (Oh God not a FORECAST!) still looks pessimistic. Andrew hits the right question: Where will our new Typhoon come from in 2030? It is now (and will be) a very capable… Read more »


Sorry to pour cold water on your musings, but it’s exceedingly unlikely the UK is going to develop front line combat aircraft without international partners – the costs of a small production run are just too great.
best Tim

Andrew Deacon

Just because the buy price has come down slightly dosen’t mean the running costs have and the costs of upgrading the ones we already have to an operationally useful standard.

If you assume £100m buy price per plane , thats £4.8bn for 48, so in the given range of £9-13bn , running and upgrade costs will be between £4.2 and £8.2bn through to 2048, now double or triple that based on however many we end up buying.

Douglas newell

So are they including costs of pilots and training, airfield costs, costs that would be paid whatever aircraft is being used. and all aircraft need spares.

Douglas newell

This is a ridiculous statement. The first 48 F35s will have been delivered and paid decades before 2048 – can’t fathom what has been misconstrued here.

Lee H

All We are not buying all 138 aircraft today £$ @1.33. We are buying the a/c over the next 15 years, in batches. We have a total commitment of 138. What that does is help the price per aircraft cost because it tells the supplier the amount of aircraft that could be bought and therefore they can work out a forecast cost per frame which currently equates to about (F-35B) $85 million. If the numbers are reduced the cost will go up. What needs to be worked out is the capital cost of the aircraft and then add that to… Read more »


Well said Lee, This is one of my real Bug bears with the MOD – they constantly conflate running cost with buy cost and we end up with silly figures that then justify cuts. The cost of the planes at $85m each is a bargain – there is no doubt about that. The cost of us updating our infrastructure to support them is a necessity no matter what product we purchase. The cost of operation is also something that will occur no matter what. I find this argument really childish – especially when the MOD are just rubbish at managing… Read more »


And what will a loaf of bread cost ?


What a suprise,,,,, nooot! new this was coming cut bloody foriegn aid for god sake!

Daniele Mandelli

I’m pretty cool with this actually.

What do you choose?

Losing several ships now or planes that don’t exist yet?


Neither because when it comes to bureaucrats and cuts the phrase, “If you give a mouse a cookie, he wants a glass of milk”, comes to mind.

Lee H

Bang on!

Nathan Jones

actually we could be seeing the F35 cut, Royal Marines cut, Royal Navy ships cut and i did hear that a Armoured brigade could be cut, so the next Strategic Defence and Security Review, is going be same as 2010 expect with deeper cuts, we might as well give up on wars

Daniele Mandelli

And I heard in 2010 the entire Tornado force of then 7 Squadrons of GR4 would go.


Mr Bell

Cut foreign aid the nhs is not actually that wasteful. The frontline services are very efficient. They just need to reduce the numbers of flippin managers and people in non jobs by 300%. not surprising we have no money for defence. We are just about to give £40 billion to the EU with no guarantee of a comprehensive free trade deal or the fact that the EU will not come back and ask for another payment in the future. so to summarise £13 billion a year wasted on foreign aid if the nhs cut its number of complete arsehole managers… Read more »

Geoffrey Roach

I may be thick but I keep looking at the third paragraph and I just don’t understand it. Why is he saying that aircraft being bought now (tranche 1) could rise in price in 30 Years. Inflation,devaluation? Somebody help me out.

Lee H

He is forecasting something that he will have no responsibility for, he can, quite literally make up numbers.


Why does the price in 2048 matter when the current plan is to have purchased and bought the 138 on order into service by 2035? Yes sterling has devalued, but with the purchase price falling, how can they be talking about cancelling aircraft between 2024 and 2035 based on 2048 forecasts when so much can change before then……sounds like more political double talk to me!!!


There are regularly comments about the NHS on this site. You might find this report surprising, the result in 2014 was similar.

Mr Bell

Back to military matters I do not think the RAF should be allowed to purchase the F35A variant. We should only keep 1 version. The F35B to equip carriers and the provision of STOVL.
48 F35Bs is not an adequate force. We will need to order a follow on order of at least 24-36 more aircraft
purchasing f35A will not save ANY money. It will duplicate costs for training, spare parts, engineering etc. Not going to work.

Geoffrey Roach

The F35 is seen as a force multiplier because of it’s capabilities and the RAF envisages using it with the Typhoon in concert in operational sorties…..SO…maybe the answer is to buy in another twenty F35’s now to allow the formation of 4 ten aircraft squadrons ( as USN ) for the Fleet Air Arm, the remainder forming an RAF squadron and a Joint OCU. and a small reserve.The carriers become fully active. Following on from this with the RAF working up on training and tactics with the F35/Typhoon partnership another purchase of thirty F35’s could be made allowing the formation… Read more »


External Fuel tanks will allow the F35B’s to work with Typhoons and we have great air to air refuelling so I dont think we need an A version unless we actually replace Typhoon and that doesn’t need to happen any time soon. F35B is what we need and we need an operational fleet of 138 to replace Tornado and regenerate the Harrier fleet which together were 200+ jets. The UK is playing a very dangerous game with defence at the moment and whilst we still have a great force – it is very fragile and requires another £5bn p.a for… Read more »

Nick Bowman

I think we should look hard at the “one version” position. While obviously sensible on the surface, all other things being equal, all other things are not. This general conversation is about possible reductions in F35B numbers due to cost. Well, an F35B already costs around $38M more than an F35A (something like $140M compared to $102M. That’s enough of a disparity to re-open consideration of a mixed force of “A” and “B” models. Sure, it’s not the ideal, but it might enable us to actually be able to afford all or most of the 138. There is significant commonality… Read more »


We have been down this road before, when we chopped the Harriers. You save costs by reducing the number of types. I suspect F-35A and F-35B are sufficiently different to be thought of as different types. So I would say F-35A only makes sense as a Typhoon replacement. If the financial choice for the UK for the next decade or so is retain expeditionary capability with adequate air support versus rekindling the RAFs ambitions for a ‘strategic’ ( nuclear) bomber then I would choose to keep the RM and assault ships. But make sure any cut in F-35B numbers is… Read more »

R Cummings

The projected cost difference between A and B versions is close on £40m per aircraft, as the A cost is reducing significantly but the cost of the complex B version is not. Take that over 90 aircraft – the difference between the 138 ordered and the 48 for the Navy – and that’s a bill of an extra £3.6 bn. That is serious money and will inevitably lead to the order evolving to: a) 48 Bs to equip 2 RN squadrons; b) 67-90 As to equip either 3 or 4 RAF squadrons in the strike/attack wing. The RAF is known… Read more »


Charity begins at home, cut the foreign aid budget, which is not serving the UK as much as HM Government would trumpet. Besides, most those countries where the money goes will cry blue murder when the proverbial happens (a war) and expect the UK to spill more than just a few pounds to save their contents at the rear of their trousers… Not to mention the list of big foreign aid receipents reads of a who’s who for corruption, so the money is just as well flushed down the outhouse (so to speak!). I love how the government also couldn’t… Read more »

Nick Bowman

Paul, it’s absolutely true that it generally makes sense to reduce numbers of types. I say this situation may be the exception to the rule. We should at least analyze how many aircraft can be purchased in both scenarios. It may be that a mixed but would afford us the opportunity to buy significantly more aircraft. If that is the case, it may be that the extra numbers would outweigh the negative factors associated with a mixed buy. I think it prudent to conduct open-minded analysis. There are, incidentally, negative factors beyond cost associated with an all-F35B force. The “B”… Read more »


I have no problem with analysing options / modelling buy and operating costs. I admit I don’t understand the degree of commonality between A and B models and how this would play through to RAF budgets and squadron structure. My approach would be to ask what can’t you do with a mix of F-35B, refuelling / drop tanks and Typhoon with conformal fuel tanks that you can do with F-35A?


My instinct is that the only F-38B / F-35A mix that would a) save money b) maintain expeditionary capability plans c) maintain RAF squadron number plans and d) respect the business volume commitment we have given LM which justifies BAe workshare would be to halt the F-35B numbers at 48, the absolute minimum needed to ‘field’ one fully equipped strike carrier and to buy 90 of the A model.

Mike Saul

First the UK is committed to procure 138 F35 aircraft, it has not specified which variant will make up that 138. The first 48 will be the B variant and cost £9bn+ to 2026. Well it seems fiscal pressure will not lead to that commitment being fulfilled, so what is the best way forward? Given that the order for the first 48 B is certain, I suggest we buy a further 48 A variant over time. Giving a grand total of 96, the balance of 42 (to make up the 138) simply scrapped. Forget about fully equipping both carriers with… Read more »


Hi Mike We can’t cut the order for these as that will really mean we are no longer a serious military power. Our forces are constantly deployed with inadequate and/or legacy equipment and we have come to rely on any allies to provide basics. Key assets like fighters, helicopters and tanks have been decimated in the last 10 years and now stand at less than 50% of volume since 2010 and again our forces have been fully deployed during that period. The carriers may well be a poor decision (I agree with you) but without them I don’t think the… Read more »

Mike Saul

Hi pacman in my honest opinion I don’t think we a serious military power. Our forces have Ben hollowed out to such extent we have lost key capabilities. We no longer are able to carry out operations outside our bit of the north Atlantic. Of we retain some world beating assets and capabilities, but they can only be used as part of larger coalition involving the USA. So we would be unable a Falklands type operation by ourselves, we need the support of the US or NATO. Our politicians voters and military just to acknowledge this fact rather than posturing… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli

OK Mike.

So I will twist your words a bit.

WHO is a serious military power with the sorts of capabilities the UK has? In various domains, apart from the obvious USA, Russia China India?

Name the nations who are “serious military powers”

Mike Saul

Serious military players in my opinion given political, economic and regional factors.

USA, Russia, PRC, Israel and India.

These countries have the military power, political will and economic muscle to do whatever they wish in the region they exist.

Of course there is currently one global military power the USA and in the future PRC.

The UK does does not have the conventional military power, political will or economic muscle.

A controversial opinion I acknowledge, but the truth is often controversial.

Daniele Mandelli

The carriers will be the most flexible tool the RN has, and I’m delighted the UK has them. As for F35 we do not need enough to surge both carriers fully equipped. That was never the plan. We need the 4 Squadrons planned, plus OCU, OEU, and a small sustainment fleet. Anything else is a bonus. The RN has said the 2nd carrier will be crewed and deployable if needed. With 2 we have that flexibility. Put whatever on it is available to the task. That does not need to be F35. It could be Merlins, Wildcats, Chinook, Apache, even… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli

Mike. You must proved my point. You say we are no longer premier league. I said without including the Superpowers and you named them all on your list plus Israel which is as it is due to the Jewish lobby in the USA. So do you rank the UK 6th then? Yo me that is premier league. Personally I’m more than content, intact I’m delighted, if the UK is on the top 10 nations regarding capability, training, professionalism, and experience. Numbers are the issue. The reasons, such as hmg constantly using the mod budget to prioritise the military industrial complex… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli

Apologies for the errors in wording. Damned auto correct on phone!

barry white

I suppose you want Corbyn to take over and bankrupt us even further eh?

Daniele Mandelli

“The UK is a laughing stock”

In what fields? Culture? Language? Music? Inventions? History? Sport? Our economy? Military power? Human rights? Charity? Soft power, our aid budget? P5 member. G8 member. Board of IMF and world bank. Cultural diplomatic links worldwide. A magnet for every economic migrant out there? Nuclear power? Comprehensive intelligence services?

I’d argue the UK actually has few equals.

What a sad nation this would be with a population of self loathing defeatists who talk their nation down like that.

David Steeper

The question is how do we provide the RAF with adequate numbers of modern aircraft ? The answer is the Saab Gripen.

Daniele Mandelli

What would be the greater saving?

Is that in addition to Typhoon and F35?

A third fast jet type costing less.

Or only operating 2 types, F35 & Typhoon, to reduce cost of training, spares, etc over 3 types?


Replace Hawk with Gripen?

David Steeper

Replace F35 and Hawk with Gripen. The problem is we have too few first line combat aircraft as is and need more now. There’s precedence for this with the RAF getting Chinook and RN/RM getting Merlin. It will save a hell of a lot on training and whole life costs. Plus the Gripen has a bigger share of UK components than F35 so might create aerospace jobs as well.

David Steeper

Sorry didn’t make clear the RN should get a reduced order for F35 and RAF should get an increased (relative to F35) order for Gripen.


Except that it is more expensive than the F-35A

Jack Wyatt

It was reported on our news that the UK is facing a 70 billion pound Brexit figure together with a half a per cent downturn in growth in the economy. Also that the standard of living of many has declined significantly. In these economic times, I can understand the necessity for cutbacks in the F35 order and the reality could be that 48 is all that will be procured. The QE and POW are great ships but they would have been so much more effective with the more capable and cheaper F35Cs. Questions really need to be asked of those… Read more »


Cutting the lightning buy won’t fix any of the issues you listed above.

– Fewer Lightnings won’t help the pro-EU Tories find their gonads and stand up for Britain and reject this extortionate “divorce bill”
– Fewer Lightnings won’t have any effect on Britains economic torpor.
– Fewer Lightnings won’t improve the quality of life for Britain’s exploding population.

Also… the Lightning-C is not cheaper.
And far more expensive with converting the carriers to CATOBAR and the several hundred more crew members needed to operate that!

So, why do it?


Nonsense. The UK is widely respected. That said our friends do not envy our tendency to indecision and self reproach. And our enemies are all to happy to exploit this cultural trait.

Nick Bowman

Jack, that’s not really fair. At the time the decision was made, EMALS catapaults would have been almost prohibitively expensive. There were also problems with performance. The net result would have been only one carrier equipped for fast jets. The other (the first one) would have been a helicopter carrier. Carrier strike would have only been available when the active carrier happened to be the one with jets. Far more sensible to save the EMALS money and have two carriers properly equipped for fixed-wing operations, albeit flying the slightly less capable “B” model. It was certainly the right decision.


The terrific pace of missile weaponry-development that China,Russia and several other nations have shown in the past two decades,brings into question the vunerability of the lumbering beomoth carrier and the delicate over sophisticated manned airframe as a platform on which to prosecuting future conflicts.