The First Sea Lord has said during a webcast that the UK intends to purchase ‘around 60’ F-35B jets and then ‘maybe more up to around 80’ for four deployable squadrons.
The total of 80 is welcome news given the speculation the buy could be capped at 48.
A defence insider informed the UK Defence Journal of a live webcast given today by the First Sea Lord.
“The First Sea Lord has just said 60 F-35, then maybe more up to around 80 for 4 deployable squadrons.”
According to the recently released Defence Command Paper titled ‘Defence in a Competitive Age’, the UK intends to increase the fleet size beyond the 48 F-35 aircraft it has already ordered.
“The Royal Air Force will continue to grow its Combat Air capacity over the next few years as we fully establish all seven operational Typhoon Squadrons and grow the Lightning II
Force, increasing the fleet size beyond the 48 aircraft that we have already ordered.
Together they will provide a formidable capability, which will be continually upgraded to meet the threat, exploit multi domain integration and expand utility.
The Royal Air Force will spiral develop Typhoon capability, integrate new weapons such as the UK developed ‘SPEAR Cap 3’ precision air launched weapon and invest in the Radar 2 programme to give it a powerful electronically scanned array radar. We will integrate more UK weapons onto Lightning II and invest to ensure that its software and capability are updated alongside the rest of the global F 35 fleet.”
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.
There had been concerns previously that the F-35 fleet would be capped at 48. The Sunday Times reported that the UK was to purchase only 48 F-35B jets, down from 138. An excerpt from this article states.
“An order for 90 more F-35 Lightning combat jets is to be cancelled in favour of the Tempest fighter, built in Lancashire, while 24 older Typhoon fighters will be retired early. Whole fleets of aircraft will be taken out of service as drones become ever more common.”
Last year, 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’.
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”.
This defence review was previously described by Boris Johnson as the largest review of its kind since the Cold War.