A Voyager tanker is currently crossing the Atlantic, bringing with it additional F-35B jets for the United Kingdom.
The Open Source Intelligence Twitter account Intel Air & Sea are following the event, if you don’t follow them then I’d suggest you go do that now.
Departing Canada bringing 3 F-35B’s on their way to be delivered to RAF Marham pic.twitter.com/Wt8s64VgGK
— Intel Air & Sea (@air_intel) November 30, 2020
The UK already has 18 F-35B jets, this brings the total up to 21.
It should be noted that numbers right now are currently where they’re expected to be and inline with the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review.
2 F-35B in LRIP run 3, 1 F-35B in LRIP run 4, 1 F-35B in LRIP run 7, 4 F-35B in LRIP run 8, 6 F-35B in LRIP run 9, 3 F-35B in LRIP run 10, 2 F-35B in LRIP run 11, 2 F-35B in LRIP run 12 6 F-35B in LRIP run 13, 8 F-35B in LRIP run 14 and 7 F-35B in LRIP run 15. This brings us to 42 in 2023.
How many will the UK get?
In an exclusive report by Lucy Fisher at The Times, it was claimed that the Ministry of Defence have discussed procuring 70 F-35 jets instead of 138 as a ‘minimum credible F-35 fleet’.
It should be noted that the UK is only committed to buy 48 so far.
The report states that Britain could buy only half its target of 138 F-35 jets, according to sources close to the government’s defence review and that “the wider British aspiration to buy 138 of the aircraft over the lifespan of the US-led programme is seen as unlikely to be fulfilled”.
A recent report from the NAO warns that not enough funding has actually been made available for sufficient F-35 jets. The report titled ‘Carrier Strike – Preparing for deployment’, examines the MoD’s management of the programme since 2017 and the risks towards achieving Carrier Strike’s full capabilities.
“The Department has not yet made funding available for enough Lightning II jets to sustain Carrier Strike operations over its life. From 2015, its intention has been to buy 138 Lightning II jets, which will sustain Carrier Strike operations to the 2060s. The Department initially ordered 48 jets but has not yet committed to buying any more. In response to wider financial pressures, it will also receive seven of the 48 jets in 2025, a year later than planned.
Since we reported in 2017, the approved cost of the Lightning II project has increased from £9.1 billion to £10.5 billion (15%), reflecting approvals for capability upgrades, integration of UK weapons and sustainment costs. There will be further cost approvals to upgrade the existing fleet with new software and weapons, and there is a continued risk of cost increases due to exchange rate fluctuations. The Department plans to reassess the number and type of Lightning II jets that it needs in the Integrated Review, but its ability to use Carrier Strike will be constrained if it has fewer jets than planned.”