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).

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Daniele Mandelli
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Daniele Mandelli

138 is long term.

Meantime, can we have our full complement of Apache please Miss?

Helions
Guest
Helions

Might be better to see what’s coming down the pipeline rotary wing gunship wise. The U.S. Army is developing the next gen gunship right now and expects to field it in a decade. The RAF might be interested…

Cheers!

Callum
Guest
Callum

Won’t be the RAF that gets the gunship, it’ll be the AAC

Herodotus
Guest

And the life of the programme is? Slippery as a well greased phallus. Politicians….’honestly gov it’s the best I can do’. A bunch of bloody crooks …to a man…or woman (they are even worse).

Daniele Mandelli
Guest
Daniele Mandelli

Exactly. Over that length of time it’s easy to declare when it’s no longer your problem.

Douglas Newell
Guest
Douglas Newell

Not the figure of speech I would have used, but accurate none the less.

Watcherzero
Guest
Watcherzero

Life of a programme is how long countries are prepared to carryon buying them….

Cam
Guest
Cam

Shame the RAF only flies pumas and chinooks these days! They need a good atack chopper and a couple squadrons of them.

Daniele Mandelli
Guest
Daniele Mandelli

That’s the AAC job.

RAF is the Support Helicopter Force.

ade pease
Guest
ade pease

Raf has never operated attack helicopters. Those are operated by the army Air corps.

Helions
Guest
Helions

Yes! Both you and Daniele are correct of course.

Cheers!

Hirsute
Guest
Hirsute

The RAF are getting another 8 lane bowling alley and an extra course at meal times, so they’ll be chuffed!

Cam
Guest
Cam

Exactly it’s the life of the F35 program!. Some folks seem to think we will have 130 odd of these birds flying at the same time. We will be lucky with 70.

Pete
Guest
Pete

Im coming round to idea that @72 ‘B’s plus a bunch of’ ‘A’ s would be best way to get a greater number of squadrans operational concurrently. Raf would want 3 sq operational as a minimum and for carrier force to have any credibility it would also require a min of 3 sq. Add OCU, spares and reserves.

Removes competing demands if something trully significant happens over europe.

Just a view.

P

Nigel Collins
Guest
Nigel Collins

If we are committed to 138 aircraft, why have we not stepped in to take some of Turkey’s F35-A’s from the production line? They will not be operating the F-35 due to them purchasing the S400 from Russia. I hope this will give us some idea as to just how committed we are in ordering more in the short term! Or will the unit cost increase due to the lack of sales to Turkey? Or further delays due to the lack of parts? “She added that the US was already looking for other contractors to produce more than 900 parts… Read more »

Meirion X
Guest
Meirion X

Price per F-35A will be higher for smaller numbers, compared to a lower price per F-35B, for a larger number of them.
Cheaper to have an all F-35B fleet.
Please see my post below!
Money saved be put towards Tempest development.

Chris H
Guest
Chris H

@ Pete – Sorry but why would buying the ‘A’ variant be the best way? If we need more airframes then we can buy Typhoon and deliver them faster than waiting for space in 3 years time on the LM production line. And at least we have a far more capable (in RAF wider terms) aircraft.

Pete
Guest
Pete

Because its the capabilities the f35 A brings that the RAF will seek unfettered access to and additional capacity and range. Im advocating an increase in overall operational airframes gradually over time…. and it will take time to put additional human resources in place anyway. Raf with 2or3 sq xA and 4 or 5sq x typhoon….with FAA operating 3xB for a 10 sq fleet overall would provide a balance… Especially if one x carrier is in APAC supporting global britain and balloon goes up close to home. Also would you rather see major upgrades to typhoon or timely arrival of… Read more »

Chris H
Guest
Chris H

@ Pete – Yes I can see you want to have the ‘A’ variant but you haven’t answered the key question – What does the ‘A’ bring to the RAF that it doesn’t already have in ‘B’ plus Typhoon? By any measure apart from sensor suite the Typhoon is a better QRA, CAP and GA asset and we build it here. As for Typhoon upgrades that is a given because of who owns the majority of shares in both EuroJet GMBH and Eurofighter GMBH. Namely our companies and their subsidiaries along with Leonardo all of whom are partnered in Tempest.… Read more »

Cam
Guest
Cam

Damit! When I read the description of this post through the stupid advert I thought it said 188! ?

T.S
Guest

It would be nice to get up to around 72, 6 squadrons worth by 2025 and increase buying significantly once Full rate production is started and costs come down. Then we can just buy replacements there after as the airframes degrade. For me 3 to 4 squadrons of frontline F35b should go to the Fleet air arm and RAF get 2-3 squadrons to work with our Typhoons. That way we can fully load a strike carrier or choose to operate both with a lesser but still potent capability if needed, and keep the RAF happy and take advantage of the… Read more »

Rudeboy
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Rudeboy

Sorry…don’t believe it. Penny Mordaunt hasn’t been in post long enough to change anything, but also I suspect we don’t know ourselves. Got to keep the US sweet whilst we decide ourselves. Personally can’t see us getting more than 70-90. And that’s all we should get. Enough to run the carriers, with a small expeditionary capability. 90 (fully operational) would be perfect. We should instead buy another 24 Typhoon Tranche 3 with AESA and keep the production line going as long as possible to prepare for Tempest, just like the Germans and Spanish are planning for FCAS. We may even… Read more »

Rob N
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Rob N

But the RAF want nice new 5th gen! Not 4 plus…. the RAF will try and get F35As that will make them exclusively RAF.

Rudeboy
Guest
Rudeboy

Well they can have them…under Joint Force F-35…
Then they can wait for Tempest.
The RAF chomping at the bit would be very useful to make sure it goes ahead on time…

Derek
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Derek

The Government still intends to order 13 Type 26 Frigates ….

Said many times over in Parliamentary answers until one day they simply decided they wouldn’t!

Matt C
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Matt C

It’s a pity, as I love the Typhoon, but I think it’s more likely the RAF ends up with a lot less Typhoons than actually buying more. Currently the RAF operates 7 front-line fast jet squadrons, if one considers 617 Sqdn fully operational, with a 2025 commitment for a total of 9 (7 Typhoon, 2 F-35). Unless things get much better, that will be the peak FJ strength moving forward. (The MOD is committed to 48 F-35Bs and it’s not difficult to see why; they will need that many to keep at least 2 squadrons operational. I wish they would… Read more »

Rob Young
Guest
Rob Young

Remember we have a 15% interest in the F-35 – and 15% of the expected 3,000 production run is 450, so the UK combat air industry is doing quite nicely out of the deal.

Rudeboy
Guest
Rudeboy

The 15% is widely misunderstood. It’s good PR, but is actually designed to confuse. It’s not 15% made in the UK by value. It’s UK companies owned share. For example the F-35B Lift Fan from Rolls Royce is made in the US, BAE Systems makes a lot of the gear in the US (EW system amongst other things). The 15% is not the benefit to the UK…its far, far less. If the F-136 had gone ahead the UK made content would have been higher, but it was cancelled. If you want the UK combat air industry (i.e. UK workers, smaller… Read more »

Stephen
Guest
Stephen

And Taranis. U.A.V.s are the future, we need a British product in this field.

maurice10
Guest
maurice10

On the question fatigue, just how long can a F35 airframe last? If its twice as long as say, a Tornado, I can understand the modest 138 units. I just feel it should be more?

BB85
Guest
BB85

There is a defense article kicking around somewhere saying the service life was as little as 7 years for the first batch of F35 air frames. Let’s hope to God its not.

maurice10
Guest
maurice10

If true, it might be down to midlife airframe stresses, which may be repairable after a major inspection? I can’t see the composites being the prime cause?

Geoffrey Roach
Guest
Geoffrey Roach

Im sorry guys but to say that all politicians are the same or worse is just plain daft. It’s the same as saying we’re all the same or all police officers are the same. There are good and bad and yes some ,in my opinion , are rubbish but without them who makes the decisions..the mob.
My suggestion to those of you who really believe this. Stand for election yourself and put your money and time where your mouth is.

Herodotus
Guest

Having just finished Alan Clark’s ‘The Tories’, I am inclined to disagree with you!

Geoffrey Roach
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Geoffrey Roach

O.K.

Nigel Collins
Guest
Nigel Collins

It would appear not much has changed since Jan 10, and a new Secretary of State for Defence!

“The British have said they will buy 48 jets to meet immediate requirements for a joint RAF/Royal Navy force and have committed to buying a total of 138 aircraft, though officials have given only a vague timeline.”
https://www.defensenews.com/global/europe/2019/01/10/uk-defense-chief-f-35-jets-are-ready-for-operations/

Tony617
Guest
Tony617

With one caveat I’ve nothing against the UK ordering the F-35A – it’s cheaper to buy and run than the F-35B, has a substantially greater payload and is much longer range. The RAF needs a modern land-based strike plane, and in that role the F-35A is obviously superior. The important caveat is that we also need enough F-35B’s for the QE’s – two frontline squadrons of 12 aircraft, and the ability to form a third in an emergency is a not unreasonable requirement. Add in some airframes for training, trials, testing, maintenance, attrition, … and 48 aircraft is clearly too… Read more »

Meirion X
Guest
Meirion X

I am sure, that the ‘lift-fan’ could be removed from a F-35B, and stored for when necessary needed, and a fuel tank fitted in the space vacated by the lift-fan? I f so, it would give the F-35B the same range as the F-35A. The converted F-35B’s would be use by the RAF for conventional take-off and landing. No need to purchase a whole new logistics trail if procuring another aircraft version, e.g. using the drogue refuelling as the F-35B and OCU. If the RAF was to purchase a small number of F-35A’s, the unit price would most likely be… Read more »

Meirion X
Guest
Meirion X

I should say, you pay more per item for small amounts.

Rudeboy
Guest
Rudeboy

“I am sure, that the ‘lift-fan’ could be removed from a F-35B, and stored for when necessary needed, and a fuel tank fitted in the space vacated by the lift-fan? I f so, it would give the F-35B the same range as the F-35A.” Errr…no. That would alter the entire CoG of the aircraft, particularly as the fuel is used up. You’d have to do a entirely new test programme that would be pretty much the same as for a new aircraft i.e. utterly unaffordable. F-35 is purchased in production lots, with set prices for all the customers in the… Read more »

Meirion X
Guest
Meirion X

I see your point Rudeboy, but how come the behind the cockpit fuel tank in a F-35A does not seem to affect its performance and CoG much, as the tank empties? Most likely the fuel tank in a F-35A only takes up a certain proportion of the behind the cockpit space, and other fixed weight items fill the rest of the space. The same filling could be applied to a F-35B with a lift-fan removed, and a fuel tank the same size fitted, and positioned as in a F-35A. And with added weights fitted to adjust Centre of Gravity. The… Read more »

DaveyB
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DaveyB

The B version regardless of whether the lift fan is fitted or not will still be slower and have less range than the A or C versions. This is all down to the wider fuselage that is required to make allowances for the lift fans diameter. The wider fuselage means the wave drag affect is higher on the B version which cuts into the maximum speed and range. The flights stabs should be able to compensate for the missing weight of the fan, so long as comparable weight is fitted in its place. The tank may have to be the… Read more »

Cam
Guest
Cam

How I miss the Harrier and sea Harrier, a great British jet that pinched above her weight….

geoff
Guest
geoff

Indeed Cam. A greater pity was the cancellation by Harold Wilson of the P 1154 supersonic version in the 1960’s. A number were in an advanced state of build on the assembly floor when he pulled the plug. The Super Harrier had some significant teething problems at the time but over the years they would have been sorted and the market for such an aircraft and its successors would have filled the demand for VSTOL aircraft being taken up by the F35B today.

Nigel Collins
Guest
Nigel Collins

A pity indeed!
Just imagine what havoc Corbyn could cause if he is ever elected as PM.
“where dozens of the world’s greatest aircraft design houses have failed. The tortuous road which led, via the Harrier, to the F-35B started with NATO requirement NBMR-3 of 1961. This almost led to a British superfighter, the Hawker P.1154.”
https://hushkit.net/2012/07/20/the-hawker-p-1154-britains-supersonic-jumpjet/

Stephen
Guest
Stephen

There are far too many of these pitys in recent British history (Harrier, TSR2, Black Arrow rocket, Intercity 250, etc., etc.).

In future we have to start better funding these types of indigenous projects, in at least some fields.

the_marquis
Guest
the_marquis

It’s a joke when you think that we have failed to purchase the full amount of Typhoons to replace the Tornado F3s, Sea Harrier FA2 and then Harrier GR7/9 were decommissioned before their replacement, F35, was ready, and Tornado GR4’s replacement, the FOAS, was sh!tcanned before it got off the page. And we still can’t commit to buying F35 so we can still have an air force. It’s obviously nice to save money and dripfeed the F35 procurement across the length of the programme, but only if we still have our existing aircraft. But the existing aircraft have beenretired. So… Read more »

the_marquis
Guest
the_marquis

I should add that Typhoon has also replaced the Jaguar fleet…

Daniele Mandelli
Guest
Daniele Mandelli

I would be delighted if we actually had 200 Fast Jets.

Yes I think that is the plan, for far less sadly.

Later squadrons of F35 will replace earlier Typhoons, so 7/2 becomes 5/4.

the_marquis
Guest
the_marquis

Yeah it’s painful to watch…it’s the hope that does you in…

Daniele Mandelli
Guest
Daniele Mandelli

And your right about the demise of our fast jet fleet.

Mod hide behind capability, but how can capability be in 2 places at once. It’s gone too far.

JohnHartley
Guest
JohnHartley

Lets face it, pre lot 8 F-35 were/are dogs. It is lucky the UK has only 4 of them. I think the F-35 will truly shine with block 4 software & engine upgrade 2.0. That is 3 years away, probably. So I am willing to wait.

Joe16
Guest
Joe16

Agreed. I’m not too sad they’ve kept the buy small so far. Working up a new capability like this is big work anyway- we wouldn’t have the resources and manpower to be flying the jets if we had them anyway. It also scores us points with the USMC, as they were keen to get an initial mass operating quickly regardless of the block number. It’s good to give something away for no real loss and get goodwill in return. I reckon that we’ll be doing a lot more work with the USMC going forward, and they’ve been pretty generous behind… Read more »

Steve
Guest
Steve

This logic only works if we don’t have a war between now and when we get them. In fact you can argue we can wait for the next gen f36 orw whatever it will be called, as they will better still.

The problem is wars are unpredictable and these jets can’t be built overnight

JohnHartley
Guest
JohnHartley

Pre lot 8, you could not fight with them anyway, no matter how many you had.

Paul.P
Guest
Paul.P

Wouldn’t it be cheaper to buy some S-400s. They seem to be pretty good. Where’s Duncan Sandys when you need him?

TopBoy
Guest
TopBoy

I think everyone forgets that the carriers can handle up to 60 aircraft. 2 squadrons and 3 in surge conditions is total BS. They could easily handle 4 squadrons of F35 and even a fifth!
These ships are terribly under armed and dont even get me stared about point defence

JohnHartley
Guest
JohnHartley

Hangar capacity. Things would have to be extreme to deck park expensive, fragile F-35 in rough weather. Bar WW3, I doubt we would put more than 28 F-35 on each carrier.
I would like to see QE/PoW get a hard kill anti-torpedo system. Plus a few manual 20mm guns. Tend to get shouted down for suggesting that. Tin hat on now.

Nigel Collins
Guest
Nigel Collins
Chris H
Guest
Chris H

And so the bids for F-35As on here start afresh. And yet no one can offer any valid reasons why the RAF would want an aircraft that is sub optimal to a Typhoon in the tasks for which the RAF would use this aircraft (QRA, Air Defence and GA). It is slower by some magnitude, cannot manage Supercruise for more than a few miles, is slower up to height, cannot lift anywhere near the ordnance of a Typhoon and adds another airframe to the logistics and maintenance costs. Plus it will upset the Andrew…. An F-35 has just two advantages… Read more »

the_marquis
Guest
the_marquis

I’ve grown to have a great admiration for what the French did with the Rafale project (admittedly they stuck in the EFA project just long enough to learn all our secrets before going it alone, but still). It would have been a big help if we had developed Typhoon from the start as a naval, carrier-borne fighter. That would have allowed us to take our time with the F35 procurement without undermining our overall capability. I know that at the time of designing the EFA/Eurofighter there was no desire to replace the Invincibles so why bother on the R&D for… Read more »

Steve
Guest
Steve

The biggest problem with the f35 was it was designed from fresh for the 3 versions, which meant to is compromised for all 3. Switching from a typhoon to a vlsl jet would have had the same challenges without the buy size to cover the massive costs in trying to overcome the compromises. Naval version of the typhoon would never have worked, especially as we did not have a cat and trap carrier at the time and still don’t. The French project worked because they were less ambitious, but equally that meant a jet that is technically on paper less… Read more »

the_marquis
Guest
the_marquis

Yeah I just meant if we had run the Typhoon project like the Rafale. I wouldn’t have bothered with a STOVL Typhoon, just a navalised CATOBAR version. But that would’ve been impossible alongside the Germans, Italians and Spanish. It’s a minor miracle we got them to build Typhoon at all, post German reunification, no way we could have got them to go along with a carrier ready variant. This wouldn’t be instead of F35, just to operate alongside it. I don’t think not having a CATOBAR carrier would be an issue to developing the naval variant, but would cost a… Read more »

JohnHartley
Guest
JohnHartley

Flight International, 09/02/2011, Eurofighter reveals offer to produce navalised Typhoon.
I think it was a stobar variant, with stronger landing gear, a modified arrester hook & thrust vectoring engine nozzles, to approach the carrier at reduced speed without restricting pilot vision.

the_marquis
Guest
the_marquis

Yeah i think that was BAES mischief-making, like saying the QE class can be easily converted to CATOBAR ops in refit 🙂 as far as i’m aware the Typhoon’s sink rate is outside the envelope for carrier landing, and the canards are too far forward, obstructing pilot view. Plus there’s the issue of STOBAR ops giving fastjet aircraft sub-optimal performance: low range, light weapons load.
I would be happy if we can at least upgrade the current Typhoon fleet with AESA radar, Meteor, the thrust upgrade for the EJ200 and some kind of anti-ship missile.

DaveyB
Guest
DaveyB

There are now three Nations involved with Tempest, UK, Italy and Sweden. An inter-Government MoU has been signed between the countries to develop a future fighter with the aim of replacing both Typhoon and Gripen (This is not a contract as such – yet!). The Swedes will demand that the aircraft has STOL performance, so it can meet its dispersed airfield requirements when operating from highways. Therefore, if it has STOL, it will be useful for carrier ops. The beauty of having both Italy and Sweden on-board is that they have both been actively developing their aircraft (unlike Germany and… Read more »

the_marquis
Guest
the_marquis

Yeah I agree it’s definitely positive to be (hopefully) working with the Swedes and not with the Germans! I think there is a good chance of it progressing if they are on board. Leonardo’s involvement likewise will keep the Italians happy. Never got the impression that they were particularly difficult to deal with on Tornado or Typhoon – hopefully they’ll just sit at the back quietly and not rock the boat, just pay R&D costs promptly and in full! From a Navy perspective, it would be great if Saab good get some firm orders for the Gripen Maritime (eg Brazil),… Read more »

Steve
Guest
Steve

This has t45/horizon written all over it. Sweden will want a cheap option for mid end warfare and we will want top and. Not sure on Italy but I suspect it will fall apart over aims of the nation’s and we will go with whatever option the US chooses.

Gandalf
Guest
Gandalf

Any source to this claim? I have not seen any such commitments from neither Sweden nor Italy Do not confuse Italy and Leonardo. Leonardo is a supplier , they have been excluded from the Franco/German/Spanish effort, therefore they want to get paid on any future fighter project. Leonardo are not bringing money to the table. The Italian governement has not committed any funds to Tempest and Italy’s 5 star movement’s priority is not defence spending. In fact they have been trying to reduce the number of F35. Also be careful what you wish for. Just look at what Fincantieri tried… Read more »

DaveyB
Guest
DaveyB

Part of the information is from the Paris airshow by the Italian defence minister Elisabetta Trenta. It may have been just a reaction to not being invited by the Franco/German ministers on her part. But she mentioned that she has been having inter-government talks with the UK about entering the Tempest project and have has come to an agreement. You are right that nothing has been officially published and it may be all spin on her part, but the UK has not denied it. It was reported by Janes that: “Speaking to reporters on 21 May, Peter Hultqvist, Swedish Minister… Read more »

Jack Gramme
Guest
Jack Gramme

If the Tempest project ever reaches fruition, it will be 2040 at the earliest and another decade after that before you see the plane in the numbers needed to have a major impact.

Chris H
Guest
Chris H

@ the_marquis – You pretty much summed it all up there and especially the timing of the Typhoon R & D phase and the Invincibles. I very much hope we are in a more synchronised phase now with Tempest and the QE Class refits. While I don’t particularly admire the French way of doing things I wish we in the UK had half the willingness to support our home industries. You have to bear in mind France is historically a socialist (small ‘s’) society and why the French State has equity positions in 81 French companies, ranging from Alstom, Dassault… Read more »

Jay Gramme
Guest
Jay Gramme

In a modern war against a competent foe, the survival rate for Gen 4 and Gen 4.5 aircraft is not good on day 1. Something has to take out the air defense and communication networks. The Typhoon will have to remain in the background until this is accomplished.

DaveyB
Guest
DaveyB

Agree, which is why its crucial we have the F35. If you’re facing a S400 battery complete with its Panstir close in protection. It would be suicide to send in a Typhoon at anything but tree top height and use stand-off weapons to firstly take out the Panstir. Once the Pantsir is taken care-off you’ll be within the minimum height and engagement zones of the S400. On day one of a peer vs peer conflict the Typhoons will be too busy doing counter air interdiction. The F35s will be your primary offensive weapon. If the F35 is paired with a… Read more »

andy reeves
Guest
andy reeves

JUST NEED ‘HANK THE YANK’ TO PULL HIS FINGER OUT AND BUILD THEM FASTER