The Ministry of Defence have again refused to commit to all UK F-35 orders being the B variant.

Stephen Morgan, MP for Portsmouth South, asked in a written question:

“To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, whether the Government plans to allocate funding for the purchase of F-35A or F-35B aircraft; and what assessment he has made of the implications of that decision for the ability of the Royal Air Force to land aircraft on aircraft carriers.”

Stuart Andrew, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence, responded:

“The Strategic Defence and Security Review 2015 stated our intent to buy 138 F-35 Lightning aircraft over the life of the programme. The first tranche of 48 aircraft will be the carrier capable F-35B, of which 17 have been delivered so far. Decisions on subsequent tranches of Lightning will be taken at the appropriate time.”

Some respected commentators have argued that a split-buy undermines the aircraft carrier programme, with SaveTheRoyalNavy.org saying:

“Should the number of F-35Bs be capped at 48, much of the vast potential of Carrier Enabled Power Projection (CEPP) will have been squandered. After decades of development and an investment running into £ Billions to purchase these large and capable vessels, their main armament will be a handful of jets.”

The decision, of course could still go either way and the Government appear to be leaving their options open, what do you think about this? Please let me know in the comments.

69 COMMENTS

  1. It’s nuts. Two aircraft types, regardless of commonality in many areas, means two repair and sustainment lines, two types of training. Air force jets would not be able use the carriers, reducing deployability. Two small fleets, given the additional use and fatigue of airframes, would mean two smaller sets of aircraft available for frontline use, equals less sorties, equals less combat power.

    Nuts. But why should anyone be surprised? Catapults? No catapults. History just goes on repeating itself.

    • I agree with you, Lee. Unfortunately, when we are dealing with Politicians, we always have to compromise on capital projects. Why? because we have to pander to their lack of understanding of the real world. I have put the compromise in my comment below and offering the RAF two squadrons of As, but I am worried about the costs involved as you describe in your excellent comment.

    • Agreed its mad but that’s what happens when the RAF controls FAA fast jets ,they don’t want to spend 6 month’s away on deployment.

    • The F35A engines are totally different to the F35B as is the air frame.
      There is very little compatibility between the F35A and F35B .

      This was always on the cards ordering 90 F35A will save over £4 billion over ordering 90 F35B.

      If we only order 48 F35B the max number we could put to sea would be 16 due to the long maintenance cycle and training requirements plus it is a shared asset with the RAF remember what the RAF did with the harrier fleet when it was shared the navy struggled to get 6 planes at anyone time.
      I said at the time that we have built the world largest and most expensive helicopter carriers because the RAF and the treasury would stitch the navy up.

      • Rubbish. Apart from the gearbox and afterburner section the two engines are identical. So is most of the airframe.

        • Not true Glenn go read the specs on the Lockheed sales pages , the engines are not compatible.
          The turbine blades on the F35B are thicker , the fuel system is different and the engine is shorter.

          • Tom(I think this is really David!)#
            Lockheed does Not manufacture the jet engine of the F-35, it is Pratt & Whitney that manufactures the F135 jet engine for all versions of the F-35.

  2. To achieve CEPP with both carriers, we need two full compliments of F35Bs. A full compliment would be in excess of 3 squadrons of 12 aircraft each. These carriers can operate more than 40 aircraft if needed. Four squadrons (48 F35Bs) with associated helicopters. For two carriers, this is 96 plus spares, Lets say 14. This means that we need 110 F35Bs. From our total commitment of F35s, that leaves 28 (2 squadrons with 4 spares) F35A for the RAF. This balance of As and Bs is after all supports the whole reason for investing over £6Bn in build costs alone on our most powerful warships.

    • Remember though, air groups for both carriers has never been in the plan Gerry.

      See the 2015 SDSR chart released on the Carriers and LPD. 1 active, 1 reserve for both.

      In war OK fine put whatever you can on the second carrier, helicopters, F35B from the OCU, Allied F35B, whatever.

      • On the plus side it would allow the FAA full control of its (minimum 60 B variants) and not pander to the RAF’s single service outlook to defence!

        • On the plus side it would allow the RAF full control of its (minimum 60 A variants) and not pander to the Royal Navy’s single service outlook to defence!

        • Always a sadness we can’t get over the fact that geographically UK is guardian of the North and North Atlantic as its primary strategic place. If we lost these we lose all. Of course its going global again so its broader than this and includes mainland Europe and the south etc, etc.
          I would be somewhat concerned at the performance of the F35B for certain roles but overall I think maritime and the periphery is far more key than slogging it out on mainland Europe.
          The Navy is very much multi role and will learn a lot with its RAF partners and it will be interesting to see how things work out in first 5 years.

      • In my opinion though, Daniele, the may be a time when we simply have to operate both at the same time – I.E. a national emergency. I know you note this, but I wouldn’t have thought that 48 jets could realistically achieve this (three of which will permanently be in the U.S.), but I think the Falklands proved what small numbers could achieve. But if we need to surge one carrier and operate the other, surely it’s not enough?

        Also, what happens if say (God forbid), one of them has a catastrophic fire (see USS Enterprise and USS Forrestal among others). We’d likely lose a large chunk of the F35B fleet. Of course, firefighting technologies have come a long way since then, but we need to remember that combat and simple accidents can quickly whittle down airframe numbers.

        Maybe it’s time to consider looking into autonomous technology for the carriers to augment the low numbers of our assets.

    • According to Kidd, the carriers could operate up to 70 aircraft under surge conditions. While not all would be F35B’s, I’d say that could be easily 48 F35Bs and the rest helicopters. In which case, what would we put on the second carrier?…..

  3. Several points.

    One, despite the government appearing to keep their options open, HM Treasury, the greatest enemy our forces have, will always win out it seems.

    While cheaper to purchase, some say buying the A will mean those savings will be lost through running two fleets. There needs to be a definitive answer and costs of that if that is indeed the case.

    Bottom line is enough B must be bought to fully surge one QEC carrier in full fat war role if required. 48 surely not enough.

    So what number would that equate to for the forward fleet? Added to this OCU aircraft, those in maintenance, and reserves in the sustainment fleet.

    I have no idea. Second batch of 22 B variants to make 70 B?

    I would also caution that an all B purchase of the most expensive version will probably see cuts fall elsewhere to pay for them.

    There is a black hole that needs dealing with. Cutting the 138 aircraft order saves billions at a stroke.

    If many of those cuts can be avoided by a split buy or reduction of the 138 total then is that not worth it taking wider UK defence as a whole into account?

    I say yes, as long as the potential of QEC is not wasted.

    • I assume we are talking about ordering all 138 and saving money because the ‘A’ is cheaper than the ‘B’. I think that would be fine if all 138 were in service but I doubt they ever will due to the buy rate. I have an awful feeling that we will end up with only 48 ‘B’s with a few more ordered years down the line to replace the initial batch. That means we will only ever have 2 active squadrons in peace time, 24 aircraft on a carrier designed for many more, plus helos of cause.

      If that is the case then fine as long as we get 4 active ‘A’ squadrons, which by my maths means around 70 aircraft.

      IF, and that is a big if, we get 6 active squadrons out of this plus the 8 Typhoon squadrons then that seems a decent uplift to me.

      • The A’s also have better performance than the B’s, not as good as the long range C’s but the C’s cost almost as much as the B’s. The A’s also have an internal cannon but can only use boom refuelling method, the B uses Probe and the C can use both.

        The americans have had a lot of issues rolling out the B’s and C’s though with them being heavier and hotter, too heavy for many amphibious ships cranes and too large for some ships elevators meaning they can only be stored on deck.

      • Rob# I don’t know if you are aware, the RAF does not plan to integrate Storm Shadow for use with the F-35A. So the F-35A is Not a true replacement of the Tornado! Split buys are Only worthwhile with bigger Overall numbers!

  4. A split order makes eminent sense long term. There is just a possibility the QE carriers may not remain in RN hands during what will be a turbulent future? If that is the case a fleet of F35A’s would suit the RAF requirements. I know there are fuelling issues between A’s & B’s, but these are not insurmountable. Watching Marham F35B’s mostly taking off and landing conventionally, this obviously puts less stress on systems over a short take off and vertical landing? So, an allotted fleet of F35B’s for the Navy and a modest number of A’s for the RAF, would have some cost / maintenance advantages over the life of the air frames? I know some hot comments about the possibility of purchasing A’s has been blogged both on here and other sites, but I don’t get the emotion that some have stressed?

  5. The ramp-up is so slow(*) and we are so far away from getting the first 48 Bs that keeping all options open doesn’t seem unreasonable at this stage. HMG is not saying there will be a split buy, just refusing to rule it out.

    Also, Italy is planning a split buy and there is a possibility that Japan might end up with a split fleet too (the USA doesn’t count since either of its A or B fleets will be huge by UK standards). Waiting a bit to see how the economics and practicalities work out in real life for Italy & maybe Japan might make sense if one or both of those country’s ramp-ups allow meaningful conclusions to be drawn before the UK needs to decide.

    I do agree that if the Bs are capped at 48 that does severely diminish the point of having built the carriers in the first place.

    (*) That’s not necessarily a criticism of the ramp-up speed right now. With costs coming down and significant block upgrades to enable critical UK weapons still pending (some weapons themselves still pending e.g. SPEAR3) I can see why going fairly slowly now makes sense but at some point we will increase the buy rate I hope.

    • I agree Julian, Only One new F-35b procured this Year! It would Make sense to procure a min. of 3 per year to 2024.

  6. My thoughts are that 138 is slightly too big a purchase for b only and not enough for b and a. I would hope if a war happens with reserve call up etc we would want to field both carriers and my understanding in surge conditions the air group could easily rise above 50 plus aircraft for each carrier in that case I would think that 120 aircraft could be enough looking at about 48 f35 per carrier and a reserve ( we could most likely tap in to USMC reserve if needed) If significant savings are made by a purchase of some a models within the 138 that allows an increase to perhaps field a few squadrons of a with an ocu/reserve etc. Then maybe, but then we will be buying these potentially when tempest should be starting to happen and this would surely undermine a UK led project? If we are looking at cold war tactics/situation then the RAF have always said that not being reliant on runways has an important place in that scenario. Therefore the full buy of 138 of b model would facilitate that possibly 2 squadrons could be fielded on land if there was a reduced need for f35 on the back carriers. Surely the all b purchase ensures flexibility plus potential place of the tempest aircraft. I think it does stink of the treasury trying to save money both the RN, RAF and BAE will likely miss out if a split buy takes place if an increased split but takes place the tax payer and possibly treasury will benefit by effectively killing tempest

  7. The way I see it, money has to be saved, end of. As Daniel keeps reiterating, the plan is not to have both carriers fully active and loaded out al the time. One carrier will regularly be unavailable. When they are both active, we could have one carrier with 3 squadrons (36) and the other will be more for amphibious support and only carry 1 squadron (12) and a strong contingent of helos. We will then need a training squadron (12), and some spares to cover maintenance (say 20?).
    That brings us to a total of 72 F35b as the minimum requirement to make the carriers worthwhile in my opinion. 96 would be better, but nothing’s perfect and money’s tight.
    That would allow the RAF to get say 36 of the A, with two active squadrons, and have the FAA run the b’s. The A’s can be augmented with the new drone swarm concept being developed to make up for low numbers, but brings us a huge capability increase for certain mission types that the A has over the B.
    72 plus 36= 108 units, a reduction of 30, thus saving £3-4 billion, maybe more.
    Still a fantastic level of capability.

    • T.S I think you’ve made my point much better than me!

      And I agree longer term I’d like the FAA to operate it’s own B jets if the RAF ends up with A.

      Joint leaves too much inter service rivalries.

    • Definitely a sensible option.
      Also having F35A gives RAF better strike range options where we do not use the Carrier’s eg Europe and Middle East.
      The commonality between them means F35A allow RAF pilots better transition and cost effective when coming from normal fast jets.
      It would also allows RAF to carry JSM/NSM internally.

      • Mark# : I have read, there is Only 25% commonality between the versions, just like a different type of aircraft! Also are you aware, No plans to integrate Storm Shadow for use with F-35A or B.

  8. The carrier’s will only ever operate as part of US led task force in a hot war situation. The UK simply doesn’t have the warships to support an independent carrier task force on a permanent basis.

    Given that, we don’t need 138 B variant models to equip two carriers.

    60 B and 78 A would be the best solution given the enhanced warfighting capability of the A model.

    There isn’t sufficient financial resources for the UK to have independent global military force as some would like.

  9. While we debate whether we will have enough F35Bs for the carriers it is interesting to note that the US Navy is planning to purchase ‘just’ 260 F35Cs. Even when/if all are operational that is nowhere near enough to equip all of their carriers. It seems the F18 will be around for some time yet.

    • You should also add 80 USMC F35C to that number because they will also fly off the carriers. But while QEC and the US super carriers can carry about 70 aircraft it seems unlikely that anyone will want to submit stealth coatings to extended exposure on deck, especially in peacetime, so I imagine they will have dibs on hanger space. Its also true of course that F35 fifth gen aircraft will be hugely more capable than F18 so even the US will likely sail with significantly fewer aircraft than they have done historically.

    • Rob# The USN uses it’s carrier based F-18’s mainly for combat air patrols over the airspace of vast areas of ocean far away from mainland USA, it is more similar to how the UK uses it’s Typhoon force to patrol mainland and North Sea airspace. It is more of a deterrent.

  10. As many have said here, the problem with a split buy, if we only purchase the 138 airframes, is that it reduces to total amount of frontline planes.

    Say an even split between A and B. That gives us 69 airframes each for A and B type.

    That would mean 3 squadrons totalling 36 planes, 1 OCU squadron of 12 planes. That totals 48, giving 21 spare airframes.

    Duplicate that to accoint for both types and you get 6 frontline squadrons totalling 72 F35s. That would be fine if not for the fact that there is then no surge capacity to fill 2 carriers in times of emergency or to accommodate losses in combat.

    And this is in the unlikely event we’d ever have all 138 planes in service at once.

    If we want to split then we need to increase to 180 airframes. That would allow for 4 frontline squadrons each of A and B. 48 planes each, plus an OCU of 12 and 30 spares. Adds up to 90 planes each for FAA and RAF.

    • How realistic is this “surge” idea thing? 70 planes plus helps? We are not even ready for 12 yet. And who are we intended to surge into? Russia is on its knees militarily and economically. It needs a surge in manpower.

      And how soon will any surge run out of missiles?
      It seems extremely unlikely that we would evet carry more than 48 on these ships. It’s the mechanics ground crew etc that do the surging in reality. In a warm war an action on terrorists we can use 24 and we are currently zapping the insurgents from Cyprus.

      • “And who are we intended to surge into?”

        Anything we need to. Which is the whole point of having a military to do that should HM deem it necessary.

        24 yes is fine on the ship.

        But where are the 24 to replace them? And provide spares? And training? And depth reserves?

        • And France Italy Germany India Japan?? What surges are they planning.
          We are not USA or the USN. We cannot “surge”. Neither can Russia nor can China.

          Stop pretending.

          We have 2 carriers … it’s massively likely that we will have 1 on station at a time except for propaganda “surges”.

          We have one possible likely naval potential real enemy… Argentina. And they are a bucket of spanners.

          The likely number of actual regular F35Bs on board will be 12. In any serious action alongside treaty partners we would put up 36. This would be in support of some middle east scenario …and we do also have bases in Cyprus. Allowing for attrition and training we need about half at most of the 148 tasked for RN.
          The rest can be for the RAF… There seems no reason why we cannot have them a F35As if it makes sence… And Italy has 2 types. Also type 35As can work with the RAF and Norway in the North Sea.

          And finally, this aircraft is being built over a long long time (and is regularly being updated) and numbers over and the 148 can be added later.

          • “We are not USA or the USN. We cannot “surge”. Neither can Russia nor can China.”

            I meant surge extra aircraft over the peacetime 12.

            “Stop pretending.”

            Pretending. Pretending WHAT ? I’m quite serious. You seem to be getting confused with the term “surge” which to most will mean allowing the QE to go to a war footing with extra aircraft.

            Any country has armed forces to be able to go to war if war comes.

            “We have 2 carriers … it’s massively likely that we will have 1 on station at a time except for propaganda “surges”.”

            I did not say we would not. I meant surge insofar as extra aircraft on the ONE carrier.

            ” In any serious action alongside treaty partners we would put up 36″

            How with only 48B committed to? Which is why elsewhere I suggest the UK will need more.

            “and we do also have bases in Cyprus. ”

            We have one that can take fixed aircraft.

            “The rest can be for the RAF… There seems no reason why we cannot have them a F35As if it makes sence… And Italy has 2 types. Also type 35As can work with the RAF and Norway in the North Sea.

            And finally, this aircraft is being built over a long long time (and is regularly being updated) and numbers over and the 148 can be added later.”

            Read my comments elsewhere, where I also suggest that F35A is possible as long as enough B are procured.

          • Italy has put its order for F35B on hold and now may only order 12 F35A and they where only going to order 8 F35B .

            The F35B is a total dog , the USMC is totally dissatisfied with it but to much political capital has been invested in it to cancel the project.
            And Israel F35A where detected by the Syrian air defence.

    • Stave R# You are Right that the overall number of F-35’s would need to be increased to make a split buy worthwhile. But the big question is, what would the RAF need 90 F-35A’s for? They would need to be forward deployed in the Baltic States, if the plan is to use some of them as a deterrent against Russia. The same applies in the Far East, to forward deploy F-35A’s against China. Also I am aware, the RAF does not plan to arm the F-35A with Storm Shadow, so the F-35A is Not a true replacement of the Tornado!

      • I was just basing that on an even split to be honest, seeing the minimum amount the FAA would need and just replicating that for the RAF.

        90 airframes would easily cover 4 frontline squadrons, a 12-plane OCU plus spares. Could be reduced to 3 frontline for RAF squadrons, 60-70 total F35A airframes.

        Typhoon is capable of carrying Storm Shadow though. Is it just 2? I know Tornado can carry 4 if they don’t have drop tanks.

      • Tom – can I add that in Italy’s case they are trying to balance a volatile economic situation with their spending requirements,a political system which produces a new government in some cases on a yearly basis,its not surprising that their overall F35 buy might be subject to change.In the case of Israel it might never be known if their F35A Aircraft have been detected over Syria,i don’t think anyone who knows anything about Stealth Capabilities would pretend that the F35 is Invisible.The picture is also confused by the fact that they have local agreements with the Deployed Russian Air Defence assets in Syria to avoid engagement.Bear in mind their fleet is still small at the moment and like other adopters in the F35 Programme lessons are still being learned.As to the USMC I cant see how they could be dissatisfied with the F35B especially when compared with the Harrier its replacing.

  11. Firstly we need to get rid of the idea of 138. Unlike most countries e.g Japan we haven’t ordered 138 straight up, but it wjat we hope to purchase over its life span. Secondly a lot have forgotten that the actual plan was to buy both A and B variants to replace tornado and harrier. But of course everyones forgoten this. At the end of the day its all a lack of money and back bone from the government. The carriers have been a waste of money and continue to do so unless there properly funded. Including crew, additional escorts and a full and complete air component. Distinct from both the raf and other faa commitments. Instead of just half assing the funding on simple the carriers themselves, without any extra money for the needed parts of a carrier. Ideally we would have at least three faa f35b squadrons and three f35a raf squadrons plus ocu. Which could probably be funded if the government actually paid for the deterrent that they love to play tug of war with, out of their own pocket.

    • This seems true. The later ones will have different, better, capability and they will be being built for donkeys years. If the Tempest develops then that might eat into the eventual numbers of F35s proposed.

      It’s the Russians who have all the phantom tank planes and ships they keep pretending they have. And do the Chinese really have the jet engines and various radars they pretend?

      • F35 will be a great asset and a major step up. But no matter how good a piece of kit is be it a tank, jet or ship it will never be able to be in two places at once. And thats the issue.

        • Of course. But my pound coin can only be in one place at a time, my pocket or the till. We can afford what we can.
          We are doing better than most. It will be some time before we finally buy these planes and ultimately we use these planes to defend Britain. So the possibility of using A’s seems a practical issue to think about.

  12. The answer is obvious. If the RAF don’t want the F35B the FAA can provide 48 operational aircraft with 96 or so F35B’s. This is a family website so I wont offer my opinion on what the RAF can do !

  13. USA operates at least two types of the FA18 and the French operate two types of Raphale both states have done it extremely successfully that’s not the issue. If there is a split order you might regard it as a sign that the government wants to off load the second carrier.

  14. I think 48 will be the limit for F35b. Remember PoW is being configured for RM Aviation so will only get, max 12 for self defence. Leaving 36 for QE. In a surge situation. 138 is over entire program, so again 48 “A” for RAF. Everything else will be joint with USMC only good point. Independent FAA.

    • The minimum fighter squadron size on the old Ark Royal for self defence was 18 Phantoms, plus a Buccaneer squadron for strike, attack.

    • US Navy F-18 squadrons are usely around 18 in size deployed, to take account of aircraft in maintenance.
      If RAF/FAA deploy F-35b squadrons with only 12 aircraft, maybe only 8-10 are available instantly?
      The RAF only need squadrons of 12 because of easy access to spare airframes in storage.
      So FAA deployments of a squadron at sea need to be larger then 12, to take account of Not so easy access to spare airframes at sea.

  15. Even in conflict, I doubt you would put more than 30 F-35B on each carrier. Even that is beyond the hangar capacity. So 60 F-35B suited & booted for war. Allowing for spares, early models, training, trials, I cannot see the UK needing more than 88 F-35B.
    So the RAF, could have 50 F35A, without harming QE/PoW.

    • The QEC can actually carry up to 70 aircraft (not all F35B of course). It was stated in an interview with, at the time, Commodore Jerry Kyd back in 2017. This shouldn’t be surprising as the QEC deck is about the same size as the Nimitz and Ford carriers and the planes can be be packed very tightly, just as the US Navy does on their carriers, even without folding wing capability.

      A bonus is that high deck packing of aircraft on QEC is arguably lower risk than CATOBAR carriers because even SRVL is a much safer and more benign landing environment than BAR landing. Generally speaking though, in peacetime I suspect the goal is to hanger the aircraft and avoid extended deck exposure to reduce stealth coating maintenance issues, which is partially why IMO the UK always quotes relatively low numbers of embarked aircraft in peacetime deployments.

      Will the QEC ever carry 70 aircraft? Probably unlikely but a hot war would almost certainly involve the US and any gap between what the UK can provide and what is desired for the mission might be made up from USMC F35B. The US were very supportive of the UK carrier capability because it gives them a significant increase in flexibility for their own carrier fleet, so I see augmenting UK aircraft as very much to US benefit.

      Consider that the USMC plan on 340 F35B, way more than they can possibly use for the Gator navy. The USMC will also have 80 F35C to fly off the Nimitz and Ford carriers so they are unlikely to use F35B off those ships. So even with some USMC F35B being allocated to ground based operations, assuming that option exists at the time, still leaves enough to substantially augment the UK’s fleet.

  16. My feeling is we need to buy enough to full the carrier’s, now that we have them and a split buy will only result in a excuse for a reduction in overall numbers or a further delayed buy rate.

    Russia isn’t the risk in my view. The cold war didn’t go hot and no reason that this version will. China isn’t also, as we have no way to contain them, our tiny armed forces wouldn’t have a chance and I doubt even the US would risk it.

    My feeling looking around the world, is that Saudi and similar countries are the biggest risk right now to the UK. Every country that has been run by a ruling family, eventually enters civil war, including the west and the UK. Add that to the ethnic majoirty not having control over the country and kept poor. Whether in Saudi case it’s a civil war between two princes or a people rebelion who knows but sooner or later it will happen and all that western hardware will be used to take down the whole region. In this scenario, we would be forced to get involved to follow the US and china/Russia would get involved also. This is my view of the next proxy war, like Vietnam.

    In this scenario, is a carrier battle group better or is longer range bombers that can drop my ordance more useful. Not sure.

  17. If you want 36 for war surge then look no further than a total buy of 40-42 non-orange-wired or early “lot” evaluation airframes.

    1982: Falklands. 28 of 31 Sea Harriers saw action. 20 went south on 5th April with 8 more arriving 43 days later on 18th May (multiply by 1.3 to get 36 in theatre eventually).

    However, I believe we need to SUSTAIN an air-defence AND strike squadron on ship which means an absolute minimum of 48 non-orange-wired or evalulation lots. This means 54 at the moment (after we’ve added another to the OEU).

  18. At least 60 F35Bs, as we had in the squandered Harrier II fleet. I’d like to see a Harrier III as a cheaper platform to give more flexability, though not just a supersonic version that was pulled before. We need enough Bs to fully equip 1 carrier at surge levels plus enough to both equip the 2nd plus enough in reserve to replace early losses in any conflict.

  19. To say the RAF don’t want the b is false as it is like saying that the original requirement for the harrier did not exist. Aircraft not so reliant on airfields and that can be based closer to the frontline are a force multiplier.
    What the RAF don’t want is stealth cuts by having their aircraft and personnel on the carriers as they’re effectively becoming part of the fleet air arm.
    I believe it is a dangerous game as the joint force is here to stay and the raf tactic to push for a split buy will effectively kill tempest. What the RAF should be concentrating on is getting as many typhoons in service as possible in order to be replaced by tempest in the future. A split buy of 138 does not make sense anyway you look at it. The b is not a dog and pilots seem happy with it. Also stealth aircraft can be detected but not necessarily tracked and engaged. Type 42 destroyers allegedly detected b2 in desert Storm using esm it doesn’t mean they could have engaged them even if they could the stealth RCS would be tiny and therefore easier to defend with counter measures

  20. We should buy all F35B for the simple fact it gives the maximum flexibility. It also saves money just running one type. The F35A is not much better then the F35 and the RAF now have the Typhoon that can also do ground attack. The FAA can only use one model.

    A split buy would only favour the RAF an unified buy would favour the UK.

    • Fully agree. I would only favour a split buy if defence suddenly got a significant budget boost and we were looking to increase F35 numbers that would mean A-variants are additional and not eating into B models.

  21. We need the F35Bs to face off the real threat, Russian aggression against the Baltic states, Poland and Romania. Not chasing around the globe on second tier, compromise designed, aircraft carriers. If the RN really needs to confront the Chinese, then keep building Astutes. They are the only boats that will give us a credible chance of victory against them.

    • We Need both submarines and fighter aircraft to face off Russian, Chinese and Iranian aggression.
      An aircraft carrier is a moving Airbase.

      The USN uses it’s carrier based F-18’s mainly for combat air patrols over the airspace of vast areas of ocean far away from mainland USA, it is more similar to how the UK uses it’s Typhoon force to patrol mainland and North Sea airspace. Which is more of a use of as deterrent, 24/7 days of all weeks of a year.

  22. OK I’m in for some trouble here, but I’ll try anyway. Does it make sense to split the F35 purchasing into two types, if it saves money and both carriers can get a full complement of aircraft, then yes.
    However, the F35 B should have the priority initial purchases and be capped at 84, 72 for the carriers and 12 for refit and training. Seeing that there would be only one carrier group operational at one time unless there is a critical situation then from the 72 aircraft 36 would be on the carrier with the other 36 in the UK for home defence, work up etc. For the second type it should not be the F35-A but F35-C, this would give the possibility to convert the carriers in the future to cat and trap as I believe will be required midway through there lifespan.
    Will that give enough savings to make it worth while, No. So in many ways the only way it would work is with the A variant. With a planned 136 Bs for the FAA and RAF a split using the same amount of money would give the FAA 84 Bs aircraft and the RAF 83 As an increase of 29 aircraft. Or a billion saved, would not mid that for a further 4 type 31 frigates or a HMAS Canberra type Assault ship.

  23. Lots of very good arguments but my understanding is that the lifetime buy of F35 will be 138 and therefore will be phased over a long time. Planning is for 4 frontline squadrons and OCU of 12 each plus 3 orange wired for T&E. That’s 63 total and the planned maximum number of frontline jets to undertake ALL tasking save an all out war where they would chuck the kitchen sink in. So a split buy on these numbers is just not feasible, or NUTS as the first person so eleqently put it.

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