Penny Mordaunt, the Secretary of State for Defence, recently reiterated that the UK still plans to buy 138 F-35 Lightning aircraft over the life of the programme.
Mordaunt said in a Ministerial Statement:
“The F-35B Lightning II is an advanced, fifth-generation aircraft procured to operate alongside the RAF’s Typhoon.
It will be jointly manned by the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy, will be able to operate with equal capability from land and sea, and will form an integral part of Carrier Strike operating from the Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers. With advanced sensors, mission systems and low-observable technology (stealth), the Lightning is a fifth-generation air system which will provide the UK with a world-beating combat air capability.
The Lightning will give the UK operational flexibility, allowing us to act at a time and place of our choosing. Seventeen of the first tranche of 48 F-35Bs have already been delivered; we will maintain our plan to buy 138 F-35 Lightning aircraft over the life of the programme, as stated in the Strategic Defence and Security Review 2015.”
Questions still remain however over variant, with the Government often stating that no decisions have been made on which variant of the jet to purchase after the first 48, which are to be F-35B jets.
Earl Howe, Minister of State for Defence and Deputy Leader of the House of Lords said last year:
“As part of the Strategic Defence and Security Review in 2015, we reaffirmed our commitment to procure 138 F-35 Lightning II aircraft.
The first tranche of 48 aircraft will be of the F-35B variant, which will be jointly operated by the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy, and capable of operating from both land and the Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers. The decision on the variant of subsequent tranches of Lightning will be taken at the appropriate time.”
The F-35 family includes three variants – all single-seat jets: the F-35A conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL) variant, the F-35B short takeoff/vertical landing (STOVL) variant, and the F-35C carrier variant (CV).