In a recent report by the National Audit Office (NAO) regarding the Ministry of Defence’s Equipment Plan for 2023-2033, significant funding challenges have been highlighted for the development of a third F-35B Lightning II squadron for the Royal Air Force.

The report states that the investment required for the development of a third front-line F-35B squadron will increase the capital budget shortfall by £0.1 billion between 2023-24 and 2026-27.

This shortfall reflects the immediate financial implications of expanding the RAF’s fighter fleet.

The investment cost of developing a third front-line squadron increases the capital budget shortfall by £0.1 billion between 2023-24 and 2026-27…”

Beyond the capital costs, the operational aspect of the squadron is not fully funded. The report highlights a funding gap of £0.4 billion needed to operate the squadron, indicating a significant financial hurdle in maintaining the operational readiness of this new squadron.

“…this option is not accompanied by funding of £0.4 billion needed to operate the squadron.”

Gareth Davies, the head of the NAO, expressed grave concerns over the unaffordability of the Equipment Plan in the report, which can be found here.

“The MOD acknowledges that its Equipment Plan for 2023–2033 is unaffordable, with forecast costs exceeding its current budget by almost £17 billion. This is a marked deterioration in the financial position since the previous Plan. Deferring choices on spending priorities until after the Spending Review, while understandable given the government’s ambitions expressed in the updated Integrated Review, risks poor value for money if programmes continue which are later cancelled, scaled down or deferred because they are unaffordable.

The MOD should consider how future Plans can achieve their core purpose: providing a reliable assessment of the affordability of its equipment programme and demonstrating to Parliament how it will manage its funding to deliver equipment projects.”

Brief summary of projects either not Included or partly included in the Equipment Plan

The National Audit Office report on the Ministry of Defence’s Equipment Plan 2023-2033 reveals several critical capability requirements that are partly or fully excluded from this year’s plan. These exclusions, despite being integral to the UK’s defence strategy, have no funding allocated in the equipment plan.

Programmes Not Included in the Plan:

1. Land Environment Capability Assessment Register (British Army):

  • Unfunded Gaps: Significant gaps in lethality, air defence, C4I systems, logistics, CBRN, and mobility.
  • Internal Balancing: The Army is conducting an internal exercise to modernise forces within existing funding.

2. Warrior Armoured Vehicle and Challenger 2 Main Battle Tank (British Army):

  • Costing Uncertainty: Extensions for Warrior and Challenger 2 are still being costed, potentially leading to unfunded pressures.

3. Land Precision Strike (Strategic Programmes Directorate):

  • Requirement: A need for a ground-launched precision guided weapon with at least 80km range.
  • Funding Status: Programmed for the end of the decade, but no financial commitment yet.

4. SPEAR Cap 3 Electronic Warfare Air-to-Ground Missile (Strategic Programmes Directorate):

  • Programme Status: Initial low-cost capability demonstrator under negotiation; full programme confirmation pending by the RAF.

5. Meteor Air-to-Air Missile (Strategic Programmes Directorate):

  • Mid-Life Upgrade: Funding of up to £2 billion required for mid-life upgrade, currently not included.

6. Test and Evaluation Contracts (Strategic Programmes Directorate):

  • Funding Shortfall: Insufficient funding to replace two contracts ending in 2028; development and procurement funding gap exists.

Partly Funded Programmes Included in the Equipment Plan

1. A400M Transport Aircraft Additional Purchases (Royal Air Force):

  • Funding Status: Some funding held centrally; sufficient but does not align with later years’ spending needs.

2. F35-B Combat Aircraft Third Front-Line Squadron (Royal Air Force):

  • Capital Budget Shortfall: Increases by £0.1 billion between 2023-24 and 2026-27.
  • Operational Funding Gap: Lacks £0.4 billion needed to operate the squadron.

3. New Entries into the Shipbuilding Pipeline (Royal Navy):

  • Projects Included: Multi-Role Ocean Surveillance ships, Type 32 Frigates, Multi-Role Support Ships, Type 83 destroyers, Future Air Dominance System.
  • Financial Shortfall: Costs are £5.9 billion higher than current budgets.

4. In-Service Extension of RFA Argus (Royal Navy):

  • Implementation: Extension of the primary casualty receiving ship is underway.
  • Budget Issue: No additional budget was received for this extension.

5. Mine Hunting Capability (Royal Navy):

  • Plan Inclusion: Second phase included in the Plan.
  • Funding Shortfall: No additional budget for this phase; additional funds sought for Hunt Class vessels until new capability is operational.

6. Future Commando (Royal Navy):

  • Modernisation Funding: £0.7 billion required for Royal Marines modernisation to enable operations from the sea in high-threat environments.
  • Budget Exclusion: This funding has not been included in the Plan.

7. Directed Energy Weapons (Strategic Programmes Directorate):

  • Status: Novel capability with assessment phase funding.
  • Review Pending: MOD to review at the end of the assessment phase; may replace or supplement other capabilities.
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George has a degree in Cyber Security from Glasgow Caledonian University and has a keen interest in naval and cyber security matters and has appeared on national radio and television to discuss current events. He also previously worked for the NHS. George is on Twitter at @geoallison
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Supportive Bloke
Supportive Bloke
1 month ago

Ouch

The £5.6Bn RN new fleet overspend can’t be MRSS or T31 as they don’t cost that much……this has got be around funding for the T83 cruisers and T32 which were over spec’d to start with.

Although I suspect that has been robbing of the CAPEX budget to pay for the LIFEX budget which is a massive cash sucker between T23 and CASD with PiP also having an effect.

Pushing back the replacements for the V boats has cost billions.

Jon
Jon
1 month ago

“The £5.6bn RN new fleet overspend”

There’s an even heftier £15.3bn Navy equipment overspend projected over the next ten years against current plans, following inflation hikes (NAO report on the equipment plan).

As far as I can work out the £5.9bn shortfall is mostly inflation related. All the extra new money was hyothecated, mostly on Ukraine/stockpiling and on AUKUS. The rest of the conventional equipment had a real terms cut. If the plan wasn’t cut to match, instant projected overspend. I wonder if some of the drones included in future air dominance might be pushing costs up too.

Last edited 1 month ago by Jon
Supportive Bloke
Supportive Bloke
1 month ago
Reply to  Jon

Given that inflation is falling fast some of that may self heal.

Things like steel prices aren’t going up but UK steel prices are inflated above where they should be to ‘protect’ UK production……which is disadvantaged by crazy fuel prices…..

Nigel Collins
Nigel Collins
1 month ago

Something I’ve been mentioning over the last five years or so on here repeatedly. Hopefully, the penny will finally drop if we have one to spare that is. We cannot afford to purchase or maintain the F35 in large numbers. “In an interview at his office in the Pentagon earlier this month, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Sustainment Christopher Lowman said his team has been working with Lockheed to certify a performance-based logistics (PBL) agreement, but a congressional mandate that the agreement either increase readiness or decrease maintenance cost of the tri-variant fighter has proved to be a stumbling block. “The Congress really has levied… Read more »

John Hartley
John Hartley
1 month ago

Classic rock and a hard place situation. HMG is broke having blown £370 billion on covid. Some spent wisely, but a lot not. HM Armed Forces hollowed out since SDR98 was not funded & all the later SDSRs were just money saving operations. Fine if the world was peace & love, but Chinese wolf warriors, Putin & Ukraine, Hamas & Gaza (+Iran), prove otherwise.

John Hartley
John Hartley
1 month ago
Reply to  John Hartley

Getting back to F-35B, I would only order 5 now, to keep the UK at 48 combat ready. 3x early are test versions & not suitable for combat. Another is too early lot to be worth upgrading. Another fell off a carrier. Wait until the new radar, uprated engine & cooling are available before making big F-35B purchases.

Louis
Louis
1 month ago
Reply to  John Hartley

There’s no point ordering small numbers like that. The early versions can still be used anyway, if they are to be replaced it may as well be with the t2 order.

grizzler
grizzler
1 month ago
Reply to  John Hartley

you will be waiting an awful long time for those upgrades – oh and dont forget add block 4 into that ‘wish list’ …as for “big F35B purchases” – you are a funny guy I doubt we will be seeing much more of those

John Hartley
John Hartley
1 month ago
Reply to  grizzler

2028-32

Nigel Collins
Nigel Collins
1 month ago
Reply to  John Hartley

Block 4 is currently scheduled to be finished in 2029 and then we have to wait to see where we sit in the cue for Meteor and Spear Cap 3 to be added to the list of weapons requiring it. FOC? is 2033 at best with the F-35 production line scheduled to close in 2035. “In 2021, the program office added 3 years to its Block 4 schedule and now expects to extend Block 4 development and delivery into fiscal year 2029, in part, due to the addition of new capabilities,” the GAO said in its annual report on the… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Nigel Collins
John Clark
John Clark
1 month ago
Reply to  John Hartley

The price of the B will likely be unaffordable when USMC deliveries wind down, so we must tie our third batch into that time table.

Make no mistake about it, the price of the B will go through the roof when it’s only being ordered in dribs and drabs.

John Hartley
John Hartley
1 month ago
Reply to  John Clark

Given the funding available, we will be lucky to get 5.

Louis
Louis
1 month ago
Reply to  John Hartley

The USMC are flogging off 54 F35Bs. We could pick them up for quite cheap, maybe as a part of a deal in exchange for the Waves or something.

David Barry
David Barry
1 month ago
Reply to  Louis

Can they flog their pilots as well?

grizzler
grizzler
1 month ago
Reply to  David Barry

seems a bit drastic …its not the RN of the 18c you know….

David Barry
David Barry
1 month ago
Reply to  grizzler

😉

Jonathan
Jonathan
30 days ago
Reply to  Louis

Are they, that is interesting, do you have a reference?

Jonathan
Jonathan
24 days ago
Reply to  Louis

Interesting…we should get some nearly used tilt rotors and offer to take those second hand F35Bs…..we will not and the US would be unlikely to sell them but that could effectively round off our carrier strike and lower the total cost.

Jonathan
Jonathan
30 days ago
Reply to  John Clark

That is a really good point actually.

klonkie
klonkie
1 month ago
Reply to  John Hartley

John, might you know when the new radar, upgraded engine et al are scheduled to be available? There is likely to be a shortage in numbers in 20025 when the RAF retire the Tranche 1 Typhoon. I hope they follow Germany, Spain and Italy in purchasing tranche 4s to replace theses.

John Hartley
John Hartley
1 month ago
Reply to  klonkie

End of this decade. 2028 if it all goes to plan, or 2030-32 if they hit problems.

klonkie
klonkie
1 month ago
Reply to  John Hartley

than you John!

David Barry
David Barry
1 month ago
Reply to  klonkie

That’s a very long time away… 😉

Nigel Collins
Nigel Collins
1 month ago
Reply to  John Hartley

F-35’s Block 4 upgrade 55 percent over target costs, up $1.4B since last review: GAO “And even though the program has for years been required to submit reports to Congress on Block 4’s cost and schedule, that information is also lacking for full oversight, GAO found. If the Block 4 effort was managed as a separate program — a recommendation the GAO noted it had previously made, but was ignored on — its 55 percent cost growth would have been enough to trigger a critical Nunn-McCurdy breach, where the defense secretary would have to submit a certification to stave off a… Read more »

S.crossland
S.crossland
1 month ago
Reply to  John Hartley

Cutting the scientificly proven unnecessary green subsidises would go a long way to filling the funding gaps in defence
Everyone seems to over looked Hunts renaging on the promise of Increasing defence spending to 2.5 %. Charles might not like it, but his subjects would be a bit safer.

John M
John M
1 month ago

Wow; the shortfall was £9 Billion not so long ago, It seems incredible that we are so far behind with huge capability shortfalls.
The build up of the F35 fleet is essential but likely to be further delayed. What does it say about the prospects for Tempest rollout?

John Clark
John Clark
1 month ago
Reply to  John M

Unfortunately, this is what happens when you gold plate all your requirements on tin plating budgets….

It’s time to think modified T26 for T83, using as much T26 as possible.

A 10,000 ton Air Defence Cruiser is I am sure what the Navy want, is utterly unaffordable.

Louis
Louis
1 month ago
Reply to  John Clark

What’s the point in basing off T26? It’s not an AAW configured hull, can the RN afford issues that Australia are having in terms of weight?

If a large cruiser is unaffordable (which it is) then a smaller ship is needed but there’s no point basing it off a ship that will just cause issues.

David Barry
David Barry
1 month ago
Reply to  Louis

However, if you go with air is free and steel is cheap, going with the cruiser ffbnw is the actual solution.

The Cons have told us of golden uplands very soon, so let’s sail for them.

Louis
Louis
30 days ago
Reply to  David Barry

I agree, going for a larger ship is nearly always better.
Going for a final design from 2015 with significant issues and no space for future upgrades does not make sense.

If the Italians can do it, we can too.

Jonathan
Jonathan
30 days ago
Reply to  Louis

The issue with the aus is they have a very very heavy radar and are still trying to keep everything else…an 8000 ton hull would be big enough the type 26 is in no way a small hull..you just cannot do what the Australians have tried to do and cram everything on it. The main issue would be the loss of design teams..so to keep the skills up you would need to find them work to do… But from the point of view of keeping up numbers building on the same hull is something the US has ended up doing… Read more »

Louis
Louis
30 days ago
Reply to  Jonathan

What will you get rid of to make T26 AAW that the Aussies haven’t? Sure the towed array but that isn’t going to help the issue with top weight. Why would the first T83 only be able to be commissioned in 2040? T26 took 14 years from going back to the larger GCS in 2014 to Glasgow entering service in 2028, but that includes issues like loss of expertise and COVID. Birmingham, the 4th ship, will enter service 8 years after build began, and later ships will be even less. That’s 11 years that gives T83 (T45 did it in… Read more »

Jonathan
Jonathan
30 days ago
Reply to  Louis

Hi Louis, why 2040 for the first type 83. Well you have to look at how the UK has developed exquisite capabilities..its import to remember this is not the T31 in which the navy gave a very clear it just needs to do this and it’s going to be a modification of something off the shelf…. The Type 83 is mixed in with a concept of a new way of doing air defence as well as whole new capability…the last time the RN and MOD really looked at a who new way of doing thinks was actually with the T23… Read more »

Louis
Louis
30 days ago
Reply to  Jonathan

The issue I have with your timeline is that in 2010 T26 was still planned to be 140m long. It was then shrunk even further before being changed back in 2014 to the expensive option, but was still a different design as T26 as we know it is 150m. That means T26 final design was only decided around 2015. Similarly, the UK was still a member of Horizon until 1999 so the final design wouldn’t’ve been decided until later. T83 programme was announced in 2021, but T4x existed many years before that. 7 years to launch is also an outrageous… Read more »

Last edited 30 days ago by Louis
Jonathan
Jonathan
30 days ago
Reply to  Louis

Louis my timeline stripped out all the political BS from the minimum timeline look I only included 2 years for the concept phase and 2 years design phase..even with that massively shorted concept phase it’s still well into 2040..my timeline is based in how long it takes British industry to design and build a large escort and then fit out do stage one first in class trials and then for the navy to do stage two trails, make operational and then finally test all the complex weapon systems….just look at the timeline..it’s literally impossible..you are taking a timeline that removes… Read more »

Louis
Louis
29 days ago
Reply to  Jonathan

‘needed to start the concept work at the time the last type 45 hit the water’ Based on what? T26 replacement started development 8 years after the first T23 was commissioned, T45 10 years after the first T42 commissioned. Using the same metric development would’ve had to start on a replacement for T45 in 2017-2019. That’s roughly when T4x began to be talked about. T26 development might’ve started in 1998 but the main development was either a trimaran hull or an ASW T45 until 2006 when the programme was effectively restarted and the C1 C2 C3 format was decided upon… Read more »

SailorBoy
SailorBoy
1 month ago
Reply to  John Clark

We only need 4 so that one is available to go around with every active carrier. T31 AA and T26, networked to carry missiles, can be the lightweight option.

Louis
Louis
1 month ago
Reply to  John Clark

What’s the point in basing off T26? It’s not an AAW configured hull, can the RN afford issues that Australia are having in terms of weight?

If a large cruiser is unaffordable (which it likely is), then a smaller ship is needed but there’s no point basing it off a ship that will just cause issues.

John Clark
John Clark
1 month ago
Reply to  Louis

Why T26, because it’s a large hull with the necessary space for the missile systems that a top tier AAW Destroyer requires and crucially, is currently in production. Also BAE Systems have already studied replacing the mission bay with an additional missile silo complex. So, swap out the mission bay and add a new suitable radar system. It’s about incremental improvements to an existing platform, rather than starting from scratch. It’s how we set about getting more bang for our buck. The French tend to stick with smaller platforms, but as they primarily operate in the Med, that obviously works… Read more »

Louis
Louis
1 month ago
Reply to  John Clark

It’s irrelevant that it’s in production. Designing a new hull isn’t that expensive.

The Aussies are having significant issues with their radar causing weight issues. You will not get more bang for your buck like this, T26 is an ASW hull and is therefore priced accordingly. Once you add in the price of more Mk41 cells and the radar the ship is more than a billion pounds in todays money. Even more when the contract is signed due to inflation.

T26 in that configuration has absolutely zero space for growth in the future. Nobody wants a ship like that.

John Clark
John Clark
1 month ago
Reply to  Louis

I totally disagree Louis, cutting T45 to 6 hulls made it astronomically expensive. If we are only going to build 6 replacement T45’s and the Admiralty insist on a Cruiser sized 10,000 + tons gold plated platform (they will), it will immediately go down the rabbit hole, spin out of control and become billions more to add to 17 billion defence deficit.. The T26 hull platform is plenty big enough to make an effective replacement for the T45. Remove the mission bay, as already investigated and there is is plenty of additional real estate for missile systems. The hull quietening… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by John Clark
Louis
Louis
1 month ago
Reply to  John Clark

The analogy is would make sense if you wanted more T26, not for an AAW T26. What cost differences are you envisioning between an AAW T26 and a similar sized new AAW design? The Aussie T26 has been hugely delayed because of issues with top weight because of the radar. Why would the RN want to be involved in that? The quietening for T26 costs money, T83 will always be with the CSG so doesn’t need that. Ultimately, air is free steel is cheap, a larger ship with more room for future growth is still worth it. T26 has zero… Read more »

John Clark
John Clark
30 days ago
Reply to  Louis

It’s perfectly possible Louis and as Jonathan has said above, any other option will mean the current T23 issues on Steroids, as the T45 fleet will have to struggle on into it’s thirties.

Using T26 as the basis of T83, is the only way T83 can be delivered without another procument disaster…..

Jonathan
Jonathan
30 days ago
Reply to  John Clark

Indeed if they go down a 10,000+ cruiser concept, with a who new concept in air defence bolted on we will be luck to have a T83 ready for its first deployment in 2050..its costs will be astronomical as will the lifex of the T45s who will need to be operating into there 40-50s probably….the RN will end up with 20 years of struggling to keep an out of date knackered platform…and I would lay money ( if I’m still around in the 2050s) that the RN will end up with 2-3 T82 if it’s lucky or if not the… Read more »

Louis
Louis
30 days ago
Reply to  Jonathan

It’s very clear here you’re trying to push your idea. You’ve gone for the absolute worst case scenario for T83, and the absolute best scenario for T26 AAW. ‘ready for its first deployment’ is not a metric used. The first T45 to decommission isn’t going to hang around until the first T83 has its first deployment as you’ll end up having 7-8 destroyers in service at the same time when your eventual fleet is 6. From the final design to first ship commissioned, you’re looking at around a decade, that’s including the issues T26 has faced. If you really believe… Read more »

Jonathan
Jonathan
30 days ago
Reply to  Louis

You don’t undertand Louis 2041/42 is the very best case if the navy literally orders a concept design next year…your ignoring all the actual steps needed to bring in a first in class into service..the actual real life experience of what has happened with out last 2 escorts is that 30 years from now is not actually worst case…worst case is never…we blow all the budget on lifex and getting 1 or two huge hulls in the water and a government pulls the plug…having a reasonable capability on time and in budget without the risk of utter balls up is… Read more »

Louis
Louis
29 days ago
Reply to  Jonathan

T45s are run less hard than the T23s were and are designed for a longer life so any comparison is moot. T45 of course also won’t end up needing engine upgrades later in life as its already having them. You’re ignoring the fact that the ‘worst case’ is already happening with T26 AAW. HMAS Hunter has not even begun construction and no decision on T83 that selects T26 AAW should be taken until it has been delivered to the RAN and is in sea trials with them before being commissioned. That’s 2030 at the very earliest in which alternatives including… Read more »

Louis
Louis
30 days ago
Reply to  John Clark

How are you fixing the top weight issues?

Going with T26 is picking an option that already has issues.

John Clark
John Clark
1 month ago
Reply to  John M

Re Tempest, we will find out soon. The contract will have the required £15 billion of funds ring fenced and hard wired into it, you can guarantee that.

Runner up prize will be the F35A for those with empty pockets!

David Barry
David Barry
1 month ago
Reply to  John M

I think the F35 fleet increments are about to hit a wall of debt. 48 and we is done.

John
John
1 month ago

Expect a carrier to be mothballed.

John Clark
John Clark
1 month ago
Reply to  John

Totally, alongside the withdrawal of Albion and Bulwark, probably Argus too.

I expect them to revert to operating the carriers one at a time, on a three year rotation.

A sort of one year alongside with a skeleton crew, followed by a two year leisurely refit.

SailorBoy
SailorBoy
1 month ago
Reply to  John Clark

And also mothball half of the T45s because they only ever go to the Caribbean anyway? Where do you want to stop?

John Clark
John Clark
1 month ago
Reply to  SailorBoy

Where do I want to stop ???

You think I want cuts??!

I’m giving my thoughts on the options available to a future Labour Defence Secretary with no money, who might prioritise increasing escort numbers.

If cuts are to be made, then Albion, Bulwark and Argus gone without replacement, plus only one operational carrier, are the ‘only’ options available that won’t cripple Carrier Strike.

Exroyal.
Exroyal.
1 month ago
Reply to  John Clark

Argus a survivor of the Falklands so really no surprise if she goes. Albion and Bulwark approaching the 25 year old mark. So we should be building replacements now. Ocean the sole LPH gone over five years now. No replacement. Which begs the question how do the Royal Marines carry out so called Littoral Response role. The other big question I always ask, we bought the F35B which was designed for the USMC for a ground attack role. The USMC F35B deploy as part of a PHiBRON. The aim is to get the aircraft ashore to operate from a FOB/FARP… Read more »

John Clark
John Clark
1 month ago
Reply to  Exroyal.

Re the F35B, it was the only way we could regenerate our CVF capability at a price point, considering the huge training burden that conventional flat tops bring. I honestly think had we gone for Conventional Carriers with the air groups, they would have been cancelled at the main gate point, as the all consuming sand box wars would have made them utterly unaffordable, some at that point would have argued they were irrelevant most likely. We would now have no carriers today…. I suspect if they decide to do away with Albion and Bulwark, they will go ‘whole hog’… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by John Clark
Louis
Louis
1 month ago
Reply to  John Clark

The price of upgrading PWLS to CATOBAR would’ve cost as much as the ship itself. STOVL has many advantages anyway, the most important being carrier qualifications. Albion and Bulwark decommissioning isn’t such an issue for me, other than the crew reductions. All the ships bring is a large well deck, no hangar, no large vehicle garage, no large hospital, a very large crew, not a large RM carrying capacity etc. The crew for Albion/Bulwark could crew 2 Mistral class. 2 Mistral class would cost £1b, not unaffordable. I do not like the Mistral class, but they are cheap, have a… Read more »

Exroyal.
Exroyal.
1 month ago
Reply to  John Clark

I think the Amphibious capability is gone in my eyes. Look at a US PHIBRON. That is the vessel type and number required. Once ocean went we were on the decline. The Corps has not done a brigade type Amphibious landing for a lot of years. We just don’t have the kit. The F35B was designed for one customer the USMC, as a ground attack aircraft. We are trying to use it as a multiple aircraft. A US 35B test pilot said of its air to capabilities “It ain’t no dogfighter” For my money the 35B is a waste of… Read more »

David Barry
David Barry
1 month ago
Reply to  John Clark

Do you not think that Blair will have an input on that? The amphib capability was vital in Sierra Leone, indeed, Blair ramped up the capability.

For HADR and defence diplomacy, I think the tide is out, although hopefully not in the Sri Lankan suffered after which… ROYAL came to assist. I’m not sure John.

Louis
Louis
1 month ago
Reply to  Exroyal.

F35B is the replacement for Harrier. It is no different to F35C or F35A in its role (other than the obvious differences).

F35 has a very good radar and will eventually be able to carry 4 meteors internally.
There was no other option for the RN other than F35.

Exroyal.
Exroyal.
1 month ago
Reply to  Louis

The F35B is a very different beast. It was designed for ground attack. We are making the same mistake we made with the Harrier, trying to turn it into a fighter. The Harrier failed to protect the fleet in the Falklands. The 35B I predict will also fail.
In the words of a US 35B test pilot when asked of its capabilities.
It ain’t no dogfighter.

Oli G
Oli G
1 month ago
Reply to  Exroyal.

The f-35 doesn’t need to be a dogfighter – expected engagements with long range (200+km Meteor AAM) will remove any chance of a dogfight from 99 percent of scenarios.

Exroyal.
Exroyal.
1 month ago
Reply to  Oli G

At around Mach 1.5 which most 3rd generation fighters attack aircraft are capable. 200 K is 7 minutes flying time. So an enemy aircraft could be in launch range, fire and be gone before we know it. It worked for the Argentines in 82.
The US Navy bought the C variant for a reason.
Terms like expected engagements and 99 per cent of engagements are not used in air defence. Terms like.
Expect the unexpected and from WW 1 Helmut Moltke apply.
No plan survives first contact with the enemy.

BobA
BobA
1 month ago
Reply to  Exroyal.

A few things Exroyal. 1. F35B was from concept created for two end users. USMC and UK FAA. The reason we are a Tier 1 partner IS the F35B – like all variants, it was designed as omni role, not just an attack aircraft. 2. Amphib has gone. If you look carefully at the RN website, it used to have 3 strategic outputs; CASD, Carrier Strike and Amphibious Strike. Amphibious no longer appears there. 3. With above, the Future Commando Force exists purely to keep the RMs in existence – it hasn’t been driven by a capability gap. When a… Read more »

David Barry
David Barry
1 month ago
Reply to  Exroyal.

No, that’s wrong. Harrier did what it said on the box, and even then notched up kills, have some respect.

Exroyal.
Exroyal.
1 month ago
Reply to  David Barry

Harrier did what was on the box it came in. Unfortunately as with the F35 we bought the wrong box. We needed a box with longer range on the list of capabilities.
Argentina kept the Neptune’s out of range of the Harriers which was not difficult as the range pathetic. The kills they notched up did not stop the shops being sunk. Keep in mind the Neptune was an antiquated aircraft long since retired in US and replaced by the Orion. Yet the Harrier could not engage it.

Louis
Louis
25 days ago
Reply to  Exroyal.

I fail to see how any of that is relevant as to which variant of F35 we bought. F35B isn’t very fast, neither is F35C.

F35 has a very capable radar, will have capable missiles and is stealthy. The F35 doesn’t need to be a dogfighter.

You better go ahead and tell the US Navy not to upgrade their F/A-18s and just get rid of them because they are useless as they have a small range (lower than F35Bs).

Saying F35B will fail is a completely meaningless judgement based on nothing.

Exroyal.
Exroyal.
25 days ago
Reply to  Louis

Your paragraph where you state the 35 has a capable radar and is stealthy shows you have no understanding of radar or stealth on aircraft.
As a big fan of the 18 I would love nothing better than to discuss that aircraft with someone knowledgeable. Obviously not yourself.

Louis
Louis
24 days ago
Reply to  Exroyal.

Didn’t know you got so emotional about radars. AN/APG-81 on F35 is a 3rd gen AESA radar. It is a lot more capable than the Captor-M on Typhoon, but obviously inferior to ECRS Mk2 that T3 Typhoons are getting. F35B has a longer range than F/A-18. F35 does not need to engage in dogfights once (eventually) armed with Meteor. You clearly aren’t knowledgeable when it comes to aircraft hence you throw childish insults around. Edit: if we had bought F35C, not only would we have only ended up with 1 carrier, but that carrier would not even be able to… Read more »

Last edited 24 days ago by Louis
Exroyal.
Exroyal.
24 days ago
Reply to  Louis

Let’s just agree to differ.

klonkie
klonkie
1 month ago
Reply to  John Clark

John, I think your analysis is spot on re the carriers. I remain hopeful they will replace Albion and Bulwark but not Argus. Also there is the replacement of the 3 Bay class lpds- who knows.

John Clark
John Clark
1 month ago
Reply to  klonkie

We will see mate, I’m sadly not hopeful, short of a serious increase in defence spending and a wholesale reform of procurement.

Tom
Tom
1 month ago

Financial Mismanagement of our Armed Forces exposed for all to see, at the hands of the criminal conservative party.

Billy
Billy
1 month ago
Reply to  Tom

You have been reading this thread?
SDR98 was the last Labour govt.
You really think Labour will not look to finish off the armed forces, bear in mind they have never liked the armed forces and sold the Russians the Nene jet engine?

David Barry
David Barry
1 month ago
Reply to  Billy

You’re going back 25 years? Seriously?

Could you describe the differences between 1940 and 1965?

1965 and 1990?

Buy more tinfoil bud and stop mainlining the bleach!

PaulW
PaulW
1 month ago

3rd RAF squadron? I assume the current RAF squadron count is one, ie. 617. So does not include any T&E, OCU, etc. Also this does not include any RN, ie. 809NAS. Is the 2nd RN squadron funded? The picture is not clear.

Paul T
Paul T
1 month ago
Reply to  PaulW

Think the plan was 2 x RAF and 2 x FAA Squadrons,so 617 and 809 are ok,the next RAF one is uncertain.

klonkie
klonkie
1 month ago
Reply to  Paul T

that is also my understanding Paul.

John Clark
John Clark
1 month ago
Reply to  Paul T

The proposed 75 aircraft fleet will allow for three 12 aircraft squadrons at a pinch….. 3 x 12 aircraft squadrons – 36 1 X OCU – 8 10 x in use reserves 3 x trails. The above is the force structure necessary to generate 3 operational 12 aircraft squadrons. The rather ‘iffy’ ( though improving with maturity) availability means a healthy in use reserve fleet will be required to ensure 36 operational jets. That only leaves 18 in the maintenance pool, that’s cutting it rather tight….. I would personally want 85 to make the operational fleet secure. They may of… Read more »

Louis
Louis
1 month ago
Reply to  John Clark

The RAF could buy the 54 F35Bs the USMC are getting rid of for at least the same price, likely less, than the planned 27 F35Bs in t2 will cost. A fleet of 101 would allow for 4×12 squadrons, an OCU of 8, 16 in use reserve and still leave 29 in the maintenance maintenance pool. At that point infrastructure at Marham becomes the issue. Is it large enough for over a hundred F35s? If not, splitting the fleet would be costly, there are many places they could go for a 4th fast jet base, but the extra costs of… Read more »

Jim
Jim
1 month ago
Reply to  Louis

Does it make sense to buy 50 old F35B when we are junking 30 old Typhoons to save on upgrades. The US does not tend to retire aircraft unless it’s really necessary.

Louis
Louis
1 month ago
Reply to  Jim

The Typhoon upgrades are different. Upgrading the Tranche 3s is costing £60m per airframe, tranche 1s would be even higher (maybe even more than a new aircraft). British F35Bs will be around £22m to upgrade. The USMC is divesting 200 aircraft as part of Force 2030, some being brand new helicopters. Presumably the 54 F35Bs would be the 54 oldest. That means only 12 of those are Lot 8 or younger. Those 12 aircraft upgraded at £23m would cost the same as 3 brand new. That’s 36 instead of 27 F35s in batch 2. I find it hard to believe… Read more »

klonkie
klonkie
1 month ago
Reply to  John Clark

HI John from my ex air force experience, your arithmetic appears spot on. In my day, a sqn had 12 operational jet with a pooled allocation of 3 to 4 spare airframes – in deep maintenance and servicing.

On 85 airframes, you could manage 4 operational sqns + OCU (I believe most of the OCU work is sim based), but this would be tight.

GuyM
GuyM
1 month ago

I raised a concern that by buying the hugely expensive and over complex F-35B Flying Skip could wipe out our defence budget and with it our own future aircraft design and development leaving us cap in hand for more American …. It looks like I’m going to be proved right!

Darryl
Darryl
1 month ago

0.1 Billion over 3 years for the lightning 2 squadron is hardly a deal breaker , but what this does show is the government can’t expect these high end capital projects to come in on a shoestring budget . That being said the mod is notorious for over spend on projects and someone needs to get a grip .

Nigel
Nigel
1 month ago

We must be the only country in the world who builds 2 new state of the art aircraft carriers but can’t afford the aircraft to go on them.!!!

PaulW
PaulW
1 month ago

809NAS stands up on Friday. Bring it on.

klonkie
klonkie
1 month ago
Reply to  PaulW

excellent news Paul

Jonno
Jonno
29 days ago
Reply to  klonkie

Yes but I do wonder why its named 809. Other famous squadrons from the past, not that I care that much at least there is another squadron F35s.

Louis
Louis
25 days ago
Reply to  Jonno

The FAA fast jet squadron had to have been in the Falklands so that leaves 800, 801 and 809. 809 was on the RNs last CATOBAR carrier, and previous large carrier up until decommissioning which is why it would’ve been chosen.

Gareth
Gareth
1 month ago

The government blew £22 billion on the COVID Test & Trace app which failed to deliver and the MoD has a £17 billion shortfall.

grizzler
grizzler
1 month ago
Reply to  Gareth

Hindsight is always 20/20

Rob
Rob
30 days ago

Britain has been spending money on the wrong things, such as mass unrestrained immigration from the middle east, which is often stated as being comprised of 90% males, of fighting age who don’t work and live off the dole. Chickens coming home to roost but is it too late? Many think UK has passed the Rubicon and is sleep walking into further degradation, lower world standing and poverty. A US defence dept. report went as far to say the UK can now longer defend itself, let alone contribute in a meaningful way with partners.

Last edited 30 days ago by Rob
Jonno
Jonno
29 days ago
Reply to  Rob

I dont think Hunt or Sunak understand defence or the possibly existential risks associated with single men from the middle east immigrating en masse into the UK. Who subsidises their movement is not revealed.

Geoff Roach
Geoff Roach
29 days ago

Really? Well. I am shocked!😡