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 enws given the speculation the buy could be capped at 48.

A defence insider informed the UK Defence Journal of a live wbecast 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 released today 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”.

You can read more here.

This defence review was previously described by Boris Johnson as the largest review of its kind since the Cold War.

 

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Levi Goldsteinberg
Levi Goldsteinberg
3 months ago

Think I’ve seen it floated around here that 72 seemed to be the optimal number. Provided the savings down from the 138 translate into more R&D then procurement of Tempest, this seems like a good idea. LM executives still won’t have to tighten their belts having already gotten fat off the back of Warrior upgrades.

Ron5
Ron5
3 months ago

Savings?? There’s no budget assigned to buy more than 48. There’s no savings.

Levi Goldsteinberg
Levi Goldsteinberg
3 months ago
Reply to  Ron5

Savings from the cost of expanding the fleet to 138. Shouldn’t really need to spell that out

Ron5
Ron5
3 months ago

Thats like me saying I’m going to use the savings from not buying a Ferrari to buy a BMW when i can’t afford either.

Peter S
Peter S
3 months ago
Reply to  Ron5

Exactly right. There is no funding in place in the 10 year plan for more than 48. The savings from the recently announced cuts don’t seem to me to free up enough money to overcome the realistic funding gap the NAO identified.
Cancelling Warrior will allow funds to be transferred to speeding up and buying more Boxer. But the commitment to new mobile artillery was not even in the unaffordable plan.
I doubt we will see more than 60 F35 by 2030

Douglas Newell
Douglas Newell
3 months ago
Reply to  Ron5

Did you plan to buy the Ferrari and declare you planned to buy it?

The UK has declared it wanted to buy 138 F35s. Not buying them would create a saving.

Saying anything different is just being obtuse.

Peter S
Peter S
3 months ago
Reply to  Douglas Newell

No it’s being accurate. There is no funding in place for more than 48. If we order more, something else will have to be cut or deferred beyond 2030 to pay for them. Our aspiration for 138 was over the whole life of the program. If F35 production continues as long as F15,, F16, it will still be available in 35/40 years time. Since there is no STOVL alternative for countries that want to operate small carriers, the F35b will probably be around longest. Over the lifetime of the plane and the carriers, we may well end up having bought… Read more »

Levi Goldsteinberg
Levi Goldsteinberg
3 months ago
Reply to  Ron5

Are you okay?

Herodotus
3 months ago
Reply to  Ron5

Exactly….this was, like many musings that come out of Whitehall, an aspirational number. Saving money that you don’t have, is not a saving…or at least that’s what my bank keep telling me…bastards!

Mark B
Mark B
3 months ago

Any idea how they plan to share out the 72 Levi or do you think the will just pool the resources.

Levi Goldsteinberg
Levi Goldsteinberg
3 months ago
Reply to  Mark B

Not a clue mate, plenty here more qualified than me to answer that – I’m just parroting their comments

captain p wash
captain p wash
3 months ago

Reckon ?

Callum
Callum
3 months ago

Based on the aspiration for 4 frontline squadrons above, we can probably assume that the old graphic about carrier strike will hold true: RAF 17 Squadron OEU – 3 test bed aircraft 207 Squadron OCU – 12 617 Squadron – 12 Unknown second RAF squadron after FAA get their first – 12 RN 809 NAS – 12 Unknown second FAA squadron after second RAF squadron – 12 That’s 63 aircraft, with the last 17 or so used to sustain those squadrons. That’s assuming we get up to the full 80 of course, which based on Sea Harrier operations and the… Read more »

Rogbob
Rogbob
3 months ago
Reply to  Callum

I’d plan on just 17, 207, 617 and 809 as the fleet. The 3rd/4th sqns vanished a while back. 207 can and will do more than “just” be an OCU if needed.

Rememebr 138 was life of the program so 80 is likewise and last 20 could replace first 20 etc.

Callum
Callum
3 months ago
Reply to  Rogbob

The First Sea Lord specifically states 80 is for 4 deployable squadrons. Logically that means 60 is expected to support 3 deployable squadrons.

The OCU isn’t considered a deployable squadron, except for perhaps emergencies, so we can at the very least conclude the second RAF squadron will be stood up

Rogbob
Rogbob
3 months ago
Reply to  Callum

Where did 1SL say that? Recently?

Lots of infra spend yet to even get a 2nd going.

Callum
Callum
3 months ago
Reply to  Rogbob

It’s in the article? Right at the top?

Bear in mind that this isn’t going to be happening for another 5-10 years. The carrier strike timeline gave the second RAF squadron as 2030 and the second FAA squadron around 2034

Ron5
Ron5
3 months ago
Reply to  Callum

@Callum I think your math is a little light for the OCU. How about 18?

Callum
Callum
3 months ago
Reply to  Ron5

It’s not my maths, this is from the official Carrier Strike timeline published a few years back. There’s no reason to assume it’s not accurate, everything being said now still fits.

I wouldn’t say an OCU of 18 is really necessary for such a small fleet.

Meirion X
Meirion X
3 months ago
Reply to  Callum

Some could be spare airframes for maintenance, or in repair etc.it is handy to have a few spare.

Andy P
Andy P
3 months ago

60-80 seems a realistic number although I suppose it depends on how long it will take to get all of them. If its going to take that long that the earlier ones are being retired then not so good. Its slightly worrying that I’m sceptical instead of happy at this announcement.

LongTime
LongTime
3 months ago
Reply to  Andy P

I’m imagining total purchase will be 90 with the 1st 18 being retired from service, cannibalised for parts (or relegated to OCU/training only) as the last order come online, hopefully leaves 72 operational in the future,
16each for 4squdrons
8 for the OCU

Paul42
Paul42
3 months ago
Reply to  LongTime

Let’s hope so! Its a case of here we go again…..we’re buying cutting edge technology, but wait, no let’s not go there, instead let’s waste even more billions on a paper design and mock up of something that will never fly…..

Ian
Ian
3 months ago
Reply to  Paul42

Will we actually commit to Tempest, how many will the RAF want/need say 200 ……. we start off ordering 150 … then that will be cut after to 100
But unlike F35 where the price is dropping with time ,the unit cost of Tempest will increase just like The Aircraft Carriers,Type 45s and the 13 Type 26 that magically became 8….

Spyinthesky
Spyinthesky
3 months ago
Reply to  Ian

That sounds about right but I suspect Tempest, unless matters become totally dire as an economy globally, will happen in some form if only to keep Bae onboard and committed as our biggest and most hi tech industrial company. Equally the F35 is not an aircraft that has a long term predictable future. The US is seeking a 4.5 fighter to replace its F16 fleet, the Australians (despite what an Ozzy said on here about committing to it) are being advised by its premier military advisory body to start considering the F35 replacement to potentially start to enter service from… Read more »

John Clark
John Clark
3 months ago
Reply to  Andy P

I would agree Andy, 60 to 80 F35b is achievable and makes a compitant force, along with the the second pillar, the upgraded Typhoon force.

Hopefully, eventually leading to F35b and Tempest plus UCAV’s….

I can live with that silver bullet force, perfectly capable of knocking any potential aggressors teeth right out….

Spyinthesky
Spyinthesky
3 months ago
Reply to  John Clark

Sounds like the right compromise right now not sure what the balance will best suit requirements come 2030s so committing to over 100 F35s just looks increasingly outdated thinking on the likely budget considerations. 80 is a sensible total to aim for presently with some of those being later versions and replacements to keep around 60 or so technically operational at peak. Needs to be re assessed in 5 years mind depending on then current factors technical, strategic and financial.

Herodotus
3 months ago
Reply to  Andy P

You being sceptical is probably the right balance on this issue!

‘This defence review was previously described by Boris Johnson as the largest review of its kind since the Cold War.’

Is it a world-beating defence review then Boris?
 

Deep32
Deep32
3 months ago
Reply to  Andy P

Hi mate, my understanding is that we will buy any new F35B’s between 2025-2030ish! Something like 5/6 per year, certainly won’t go much beyond 2031i would have thought.

Andy a
Andy a
3 months ago
Reply to  Andy P

Think without huge investment that the public won’t currently allow politically last two days are best we can get to renew navy, keep Air Force modern and keep minimum credible army. We need to modernise, it’s gunna hurt but unless any one has a spare £10billion down back of settee it is what is and hope government gets some contracts in place like carrier that will make it impossible for future parties to back out

Andy a
Andy a
3 months ago
Reply to  Andy P

Still keeps us as global power with a varied powerful force better than nearly any other

Pete
Pete
3 months ago

Glass half full take away is commitment to 7 operational typhoon Sqds plus F35’s. 72 F35 would be ample pending Tempest…

Rogbob
Rogbob
3 months ago
Reply to  Pete

Commitment to 7 op sqns where?

If the Tr1s go then at least 1 sqn will have to fold.

F35 is still no plans over the current 2 op sqns, noting the 2nd wont stand up until 2023 anyway.

I guess by the end of the decade a 3rd cpuld exist, but the Tr1 Typhoons will be years gone by then.

James Fennell
James Fennell
3 months ago
Reply to  Rogbob

its in the document 7.41. 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… Read more »

Rogbob
Rogbob
3 months ago
Reply to  James Fennell

Ah, missed that.

That’ll be challenging with just the Tr2&3s I’d expect some changes to the OCU/OEU to sustain that.

Paul42
Paul42
3 months ago
Reply to  Rogbob

Of course the Tr2 & 3 will need to take up the Air Defence role for which Tr1 are perfectly suited tying up assets where they don’t actually need to be. Plus of course F35B was purchased for one role, and one role only – to operate from 7 Billion worth of aircraft carriers so at the end of the day the RAF is effectively being weakened. As for Tempest? Another pipe dream on which millions if not billions will be wasted. The UK, thanks to its inept politicians will continue to waste vast amounts as our Armed forces grow… Read more »

Rogbob
Rogbob
3 months ago
Reply to  Paul42

Well I’m reasured to see you aren’t letting it all get you down!

Tr2/3 we want on QRA as it conserves their life (since they sit there doing not very much), plus QRA only occupies a handful of jets at any time anyway.

F35B will operate from whereever it is needed – noting its only operational task so far was based at Akrotiri.

Tempest, tbd – potential, and after being in Euro and US projects with bad experiences, then going alone sort of seems a worthwhile experiment.

Glass Half Full
Glass Half Full
3 months ago
Reply to  Rogbob

Perhaps 7×10 versus 7×12?

Challenger
Challenger
3 months ago
Reply to  James Fennell

Perhaps improvements in simulator training and maintenance will enable a 6th Typhoon squadron to be squeezed out of the remaining 107 air-frames.

By the time the T1’s are retired 809 NAS will have stood up which would give a total of 8 with the aspiration of another batch of F35’s rebuilding the fast-jet force to potentially 9-10 squadrons by 2030.

John Stevens
John Stevens
3 months ago
Reply to  Rogbob

I think the RAF had originally been looking into the possible setting – up of a 8th Typhoon squadron. So perhaps that’s why they think even with the 24 Tranche 1’s going they could now keep the numbers to 7 squadrons. Just a thought, don’t know for sure..We will see.

Meirion X
Meirion X
3 months ago
Reply to  Rogbob

It is the Tr1’s that are use regularly in QRA that would use up their airframe hours.

Rogbob
Rogbob
3 months ago
Reply to  Meirion X

Eh? QRA doesnt use hours as they sit there bar occasional scramble.

Jets on the sqn fly twice a day on training – thats where the hours get burnt.

Meirion X
Meirion X
3 months ago
Reply to  Rogbob

I do agree when the planes are in the air that will use up AFHs.

Last edited 3 months ago by Meirion X
Pacman27
Pacman27
3 months ago
Reply to  Pete

The problem I have with this is that F35 is regenerating a gapped capability (Harrier Force), Tempest is replacing Typhoon and Tornado.

The 2 are totally different requirements and a capability gap, really means cut as we have found with the Poseidon’s and various other platforms

60 at least gives us 2 carriers with 24 each which is at least something…

Rogbob
Rogbob
3 months ago
Reply to  Pacman27

I think thats an understandable, but misleading way of looking at it. If you stand back a bit, you see Tornado and Harrier busy in the 2000s doing Iraq and Afghan. Harrier bowed out in favour of the larger Tornado force and because Typhoon was about to come on line. Then you see Tornado in the period 2010-2019 being smashed on dets as it was mature: everything worked and it could do everything we wanted in terms of weapons, it had training pipelines and spares (which got easier as the force grew smaller) and so on. In the same timeframe… Read more »

Pacman27
Pacman27
3 months ago
Reply to  Rogbob

Have to disagree with you, F35 is a direct replacement for the harrier fleet that was gapped, as was many other items. typhoon is a fighter and tornado is a low level bomber. whilst accept that typhoon is very capable as is the F35 it is the volume of the 3 fleets that has not been replaced at all. I can also accept your argument about the ebb and flow of system through their lifecycle, but it is clear we are not maintaining volume no matter what the system. I do believe sites like this are important in keeping the… Read more »

Rogbob
Rogbob
3 months ago
Reply to  Pacman27

No, these aircraft aren’t as different as your classification suggests. 30+ years ago that kind of applied, but with Typhoon, and becasue air to air hasnt really been needed, those differences became obseolete, and the differences that matter are: weapons intgerated, effectiveness of employing them (ie cockpit-human interaction and limits), and basic range/endurance of which all those ac are much of a muchness. What actually matters is what someone in the cockpit can acheive effects wise on the ground. Typhoon as it has got to, is employing the same weapons as Harrier and Tornado could and is doing so in… Read more »

Fedaykin
Fedaykin
3 months ago
Reply to  Pacman27

“Have to disagree with you, F35 is a direct replacement for the harrier fleet that was gapped, as was many other items. typhoon is a fighter and tornado is a low level bomber.” No it isn’t and that is not the case. People need to move on from the way things used to be where the RAF (and FAA) operated types that were dedicated to particular singular roles. The move is to platforms that can act across several different roles, Typhoon and F-35 are sensor shooters with a cross over in capabilities. In combination with that there is also a… Read more »

Pacman27
Pacman27
3 months ago
Reply to  Fedaykin

there is no doubt F35 is a direct replacement for Harrier – its indisputable, what other platform has the ability to verticly land and take off.

however I don’t care about platforms per se, I care about volume and we have lost far too many airframes as a result and are spread too thinly.

I am happy with F35 and Typhoon, but we need more than 140 airframes, its as simple as that

the UK should have at least 240 combat aircraft and closer to 400 imo

Fedaykin
Fedaykin
3 months ago
Reply to  Pacman27

You are not getting this, yes it is a replacement for Harrier but F-35 is also a replacement for Tornado…also Typhoon is a replacement for Harrier and Tornado as well. STOVL is a capability that F-35 has uniquely but that is not the only reason the type was purchased and it certainly isn’t a singular replacement for Harrier. F-35 alongside Typhoon are intended to have significant cross over when it comes to missions they are intended to perform sometimes all at the same time.

Who pays for 400 combat aircraft? Sorry there are other priorities beyond the defence budget.

Pacman27
Pacman27
3 months ago
Reply to  Fedaykin

it can’t be in two places at once.. simple.

The USMC can order 400+ F35 why can’t we have a force similar in size to France (say 240)

we have a good defence budget – poorly spent.

Fedaykin
Fedaykin
3 months ago
Reply to  Pacman27

It has indeed been poorly spent but I wouldn’t get your hopes up any time soon about a significant uplift in combat jet numbers.

Pacman27
Pacman27
3 months ago
Reply to  Fedaykin

unfortunately I won’t…

Robert Blay.
Robert Blay.
3 months ago
Reply to  Pacman27

And the French have poor equipment. It’s also worth noting, the French navy only operate 40 Rafale M’s and operate 1 pretty unreliable carrier.

Andy a
Andy a
26 days ago
Reply to  Robert Blay.

And there new armoured vehicles while far cheaper than ajax and boxer are im told totally inferior in comparison

TrevorH
TrevorH
3 months ago
Reply to  Fedaykin

I agree.

Meirion X
Meirion X
3 months ago
Reply to  Fedaykin

The original replacement for the Tornado, was the ‘Future Offensive Air System'(FOAS), cancelled in 2005.

It would of met Germany’s requirement of a nuclear strike platform.

OkamsRazor
OkamsRazor
3 months ago
Reply to  Pacman27

What you seem to ignore is this;
There have been 37 Weapon Release Events in the past 12 months (37 in Iraq and zero in Syria). The combined flying hours of Reaper and Typhoon during this period were 15,192 (Reaper: 7,799; and Typhoon: 7,393). As the data concern operational activity, figures may be updated in future.”
The RAF has moved on, it’s not jus Typhoons any more we have other delivery systems I wouldn’t be surprised if the ratio of 50/50 moves to 75/25 in favour of reaper.

Meirion X
Meirion X
3 months ago
Reply to  OkamsRazor

Sorry it was the Future Offence Air System(FOAS), scraped in 2005.

Pacman27
Pacman27
3 months ago
Reply to  OkamsRazor

It’s not the platforms it’s the volume, 8 reapers is not enough in a contested area, they will probably all be lost or not even deployed. why have we suddenly gone from 5 E7’s to 3 why have we 9 poseidons when the stated minimum is 16 why do we have 19 escorts when the stated minimum is 24 it is clear decisions are made on cost and not requirement, anyone who says different is not taking into account the findings of the defence committee. in the same time Russia and China have invested in excellent air defence and ballistic… Read more »

OkamsRazor
OkamsRazor
3 months ago
Reply to  Pacman27

This is not meant in a derogatory way, but with the advances in tech, we shouldn’t be so hung up on quantity, but realise that certain advances mean that there are quantum leaps in capability from certain platforms. The type 45 are an example of this. There are others. Another example is the obsession with the Hawkeye, a very expensive old fashioned platform with an onsite duration of 5/6 hours against an MQ4C with 40 hours. What we need is a ship based MQ4C not yesterdays tech E2D. We have fewer escorts with more capability. We have fewer subs with… Read more »

Last edited 3 months ago by OkamsRazor
Pacman27
Pacman27
3 months ago
Reply to  OkamsRazor

I understand what you mean, but when do we cross a minimal requirement threshold and try and hid behind this. T45 – was meant to be 12 – it halved and grossly under armed (how would a T45 sink another ship) F35 – going in a similar direction E7 – same I do support and believe in technology and on this site 2-3 years ago I mooted F35’s working with 4 Taranis as a way of getting critical mass. and that is my point, we need critical mass and in many of our new platforms we don’t have minimal mass… Read more »

Meirion X
Meirion X
3 months ago
Reply to  Pacman27

Was Not Tornado’s replacement scraped about 15 year ago, FCAS?
This proposed strike aircraft would of met Germany’s requirement of a nuclear strike aircraft as well. G. is having to buy F-18’s instead.

Last edited 3 months ago by Meirion X
ChariotRider
ChariotRider
3 months ago

Well it is better than capping the force at 48, but it is a small force nevertheless. Leaving the numbers un-stated, if I’m being optimistic, at least leaves the door open to future procurements. Of course, there is no getting away from the fact that this is a cut in real terms. The comments I have read about HMS PoW suggest she will be a trials / reserve ship primarily supporting work on Autonomous Aircraft / Loyal Wingman drones. So that would support a reduced number of F35b, but it means that we will struggle to surge an effective second… Read more »

John Clark
John Clark
3 months ago
Reply to  ChariotRider

I guess CR, the mixed fleet approach of carrier borne UCAV plus F35b, appears to the direction of travel, though they fell short of confirming this in the review, it’s strongly hinted at.

Keeping F35 procurement running also allows a fallback position, a possible follow on order of advanced ‘block 5’ F35A if Tempest gets cancelled at the back end of this decade….

I sincerely hope Tempest reaches fruition, but changes of government might have to be navigated and obstacles gone through, for this to happen.

BAE systems and it’s partners, need to make really good progress and quickly!

SJ
SJ
3 months ago
Reply to  John Clark

TSR2 much?

John Clark
John Clark
3 months ago
Reply to  SJ

Ahhhh, “don’t mention the TSR2, I mentioned it once, but I think I got away with it” …. Said in my best Basil Fawlty voice.

Rogbob
Rogbob
3 months ago
Reply to  SJ

I hope FCAS decision makers have read up on TSR2 and why it failed…

ChariotRider
ChariotRider
3 months ago
Reply to  John Clark

Hi John, Yes there appears to be a real push to bring new technology into the fleet which is good news. The Integrated Review highlighted that the UK is rated 4th on the international table of R&D. We are in effect a R&D superpower, just not very good at exploiting our clever ideas. Using the defence budget to tackle that issue at least in part makes sense and the RN appears to have picked up on the direction of travel better than the other two services, although to be fair the RAF isn’t far behind. The speed of develop for… Read more »

James Fennell
James Fennell
3 months ago

One brilliant improvement no-one seems to have picked up on is that we are – at last- getting a new Medium Range Air Defence Missile. Not since Bloodhound have we had that. Also getting more stocks of Sea Viper, and an BMD upgrade for Type 45 (Sea Viper Block 2 hopefully). So will we get Patriot or maybe CAMM ER? Given the threat from long range fires, missiles, BMs and drones this is essential.

Last edited 3 months ago by James Fennell
Rogbob
Rogbob
3 months ago
Reply to  James Fennell

I’d think more along Aster lines? SAMP/T or whatever it is. Ties into BMD work with Sea Viper also and consolidates that area.

Paul.P
Paul.P
3 months ago
Reply to  Rogbob

Have to protect the airfields from which the Typhoons loaded with Spear 3 and Brimstone will launch to deal with the Russian SAM batteries and tanks respectively. Don’t want too many making it through to our 148 C3s

john melling
john melling
3 months ago
Reply to  Rogbob

Perhaps we can look at Lockheed Martin’s PrSM missile

DP
DP
3 months ago
Reply to  James Fennell

Just on your comment James “….at last- getting a new Medium Range Air Defence Missile”, does this not just relate to equipping Type 45s though? Does it relate to a ground based network as well akin to former RAF Dunholme Lodge etc based Bloodhounds? Must admit that would be great to see but sounds like an extravagance given the wide scale cuts we’ve seen.

James Fennell
James Fennell
3 months ago
Reply to  DP

Its in the Army section of the Defence Command Paper section 7.36 Investment in ground-based air defence will deliver a system of survivable and digitally connected platforms with a new short-range capability, including small drones, and a new deployable medium range capability. These will give the Army an air defence capability to defeat modern airborne threats. 

Last edited 3 months ago by James Fennell
Glass Half Full
Glass Half Full
3 months ago
Reply to  James Fennell

Perhaps a ground launched extended range Meteor in a system similar to NASAMs or as part of Sky Sabre.

Ron5
Ron5
3 months ago
Reply to  James Fennell

I wonder if the new medium range missile is the extended range version of CAMM i.e. CAMM-ER. Developed in partnership with the Italians for their land based requirement but also capable of sea deployment.

James Fennell
James Fennell
3 months ago
Reply to  Ron5

I think the Italians are going to replace Aster-15 with it on their Horizon destroyers, Spanish navy were also going to buy, but switched to ESSM.

Last edited 3 months ago by James Fennell
Lordtemplar
Lordtemplar
3 months ago

I seriously doubt that there will be that many aircraft in the inventory at one time.
The fact is that the F35B life expectancy is 2100 hours (which corresponds to about 10 years of service) according to latest DOT&E reports. They are better placed than anyone to make such an assesment.
So it is likely that additional aircraft are bought in years to come, but it won’t be to add to the inventory but rather to replace retired aircraft.

RobW
RobW
3 months ago
Reply to  Lordtemplar

The life expectancy of the very first models was reported to be about 2100 hrs. All three variants have been modified to reach a minimum of 8,000 hrs according to Lockheed Martin. Most of the aircraft we get will have these enhancements and 33% more than the Typhoon’s estimated life.

Last edited 3 months ago by RobW
Lordtemplar
Lordtemplar
3 months ago
Reply to  RobW

The assesement in Oct 2018 was up to Lot 12, so hardly only early versions. It hasn’t been confirmed that any mitigation modifications proposed actually worked (ie laser shock peening of the bulkheads, etc…) and capable of achieving 8000 hours promised. In fact DOT&E was still waiting to get their hands on a latest F35B version back in Aug 2020 to make an assessment. So the jury is still out on how far any modifications will actually last. Since then it has been reported that engines are failing prematurely, something to do with wear and tear of the turbine blades,… Read more »

Last edited 3 months ago by Lordtemplar
Rogbob
Rogbob
3 months ago
Reply to  RobW

FH is a grey area, F35 was 8000 hour at design but they’ll regularly rerun the fatigue analysis based on reality vs assumptions.

Typhoon will be 8k+, Tonkas got extended to around that based on condition and preventative/restorative work. It all gets quite tail number specific over time and landings plus fatigue also have to be considered as well as any extreme events.

But ultimately they’ll go on as long as you inspect and change bits really.

Sjb1968
Sjb1968
3 months ago

Worryingly vague with no firm commitment on numbers or any date(s). Given the economic problems that exist I am coming to the conclusion that our best hope is another dozen or so.
I understand aviation is in transition between manned and unmanned aircraft and current aircraft types including the F35 could well be seen as obsolete much sooner than we think but it this smacks of the age old MOD problem of an ability to work within a budget.

Sjb1968
Sjb1968
3 months ago
Reply to  Sjb1968

Sorry about the rogue “it”

Spyinthesky
Spyinthesky
3 months ago
Reply to  Sjb1968

Indeed, the engine problems are a real worry, the US are in the position of considering engines for new projects and faced with trying to update, increase power and improve dated F15 engines, re start production of F22s engines at great cost and an estimated 5 year delay, or hoping they can improve the reliability of the F35 engine, not an enviable decision.

Steve R
Steve R
3 months ago

I have no problem with reducing manned aircraft and replacing with drones. That’s the future.

Would be nice if we could get some drones in place prior to scrapping airframes, however. Or at least have a bloody finalised design! Right now LANCA is nothing more than a few sketches, not even a working prototype.

Not so much jam tomorrow, haven’t even grown the fruit to make the jam yet!

James Fennell
James Fennell
3 months ago
Reply to  Steve R

Prototype was funded last year. Being built in Belfast by the company formerly known as Bombadier (Spirit AeroSystems) in partnership with Northrop Grumman. https://www.gov.uk/government/news/30m-injection-for-uks-first-uncrewed-fighter-aircraft

Last edited 3 months ago by James Fennell
Paul42
Paul42
3 months ago
Reply to  Steve R

They haven’t figured out that you require fruit to make jam…….

OkamsRazor
OkamsRazor
3 months ago
Reply to  Steve R

There have been 37 Weapon Release Events in the past 12 months (37 in Iraq and zero in Syria). The combined flying hours of Reaper and Typhoon during this period were 15,192 (Reaper: 7,799; and Typhoon: 7,393). As the data concern operational activity, figures may be updated in future.”

James
James
3 months ago

With 2 carriers will there be enough jets for both carrier fleets? If not then it’s pointless to have 2 carriers as when real war happens both carriers must be in use like when it happened in the Falklands.

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
3 months ago
Reply to  James

It’s not pointless in peacetime as has been explained many times.
In wartime something will go on the 2nd, depending if it is just us or with allies. Who’s to say the air Group can not be split between the 2 ships with UCAV added.
Falklands? They have to land first.

Robert Blay.
Robert Blay.
3 months ago
Reply to  James

We have 2 vessels so 1 is available 24/7 365 ready to deploy, to work around refits and maintenance.

James Fennell
James Fennell
3 months ago
Reply to  James

We only had 31 Sea Harriers in 1982. Often forgotten. 22 went to the Falkalnds, with 8 more coming with Atlantic Conveyor – all bar one of the type in service.

Lusty
Lusty
3 months ago
Reply to  James Fennell

It’s also worth noting that Atlantic Conveyor carried a mix of Sea Harriers (8) and GR.3s (6). Ten GR.3s made the journey to Ascension, but one had to turn back due to a fault. Of the nine remaining airframes, six went to Atlantic Conveyor, and three were retained at Ascension for local airea defence.

28 Sea Harriers went down south in total (12 on Hermes, 8 on Vince) – the remainder (8) coming from Conveyor.

George
George
3 months ago

Hi folks hope all are well.
This is good and encouraging news. And 48 being capped which was recently reported, would have been far too small fleet.
Slightly off topic, however related. Did any of you hear Radio 4 this morning, Sir General Nick Carter basically saying the UK could still if required conduct a major conflict such as the Gulf Wars, even with the low numbers of troops. Go to iPlayer and listen, interesting to hear him supplimenting his review paper.
Cheers,
George

John Hartley
John Hartley
3 months ago

UK F-35B still need a heavy stand off weapon, something like Spice 1000, if it fits in the weapons bay.

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
3 months ago

Good news, and no surprise. Timescales are key as no money is yet allocated.

Geoffrey Roach
Geoffrey Roach
3 months ago

I like the idea of the navy having three squadrons of ten aircraft at it’s disposal, two for he principal carrier and one for the second.. See East of Suez with the Royal Navy ( Analysis).. With eighty air frames this could be achieved comfortably. The “Joint Force Lightning” could be established with six squadrons of ten each allowing for three RAF/RN surge and a decent size OCU.

JohnN
JohnN
3 months ago

If the UK is going to reduce its original planned order of 138 to ‘60 to 80’, should it not also have its industrial work share reduced accordingly too?

I’m sure other partner nations of the F-35 program will be asking LM for an increased slice of the pie.

It’s a fair question to ask.

Cheers,

Peter S
Peter S
3 months ago
Reply to  JohnN

With Turkey out of the programme and LM struggling to increase production, I doubt current subcontract arrangements will be changed. Our early contribution to the development budget is what made us a tier1 partner.

Ian
Ian
3 months ago
Reply to  JohnN

Hi John
What’s the thoughts on our defence cuts in Australia
Thanks Ian
PS do you want to buy Prince of Wales 1 careful owner…..
Thanks Ian

TrevorH
TrevorH
3 months ago
Reply to  Ian

There aren’t defence cuts the defence budget is going up.

Spyinthesky
Spyinthesky
3 months ago
Reply to  JohnN

There is no certainty as yet that the US will acquire the original number envisaged. Much debate still going on and politics will no doubt be a sizeable factor.

John Clark
John Clark
3 months ago
Reply to  JohnN

In a word no, the UK paid up front for its work share and co developed the aircraft. We are tier one partners.

I think F35 would have played a more prominent roll in our armed forces, but the once impressively advanced F35, has been introduced so slowly, it’s on the brink of being elipsed by Gen6 manned and unmanned technology.

Andrew
Andrew
3 months ago

You can see what’s going to happen. Cuts now with a pledge to finance a long off future aircraft in large numbers. When the time comes to purchase Tempest they will make cuts again. Considering the F35 was meant to replace both the Sea Harriers and Tornado then 138 was already at the lower end. Anything under 100 is just pathetic.

Alabama boy
Alabama boy
3 months ago
Reply to  Andrew

As a point of interest, and probably meaningless in the context of the whole MOD budget, whose vote do the F35Bs come out of? Navy or RAF? Given that, I thought F35B was replacing Tornado and the Harrier yet all the talk is about putting all our F35s eggs in 2 big baskets – the carriers. Surely we cannot believe that the non stealthy Typhoon releasing off smart laser/GPS guided bombs from med/high level in uncontested airspace are going to replace the deep strike role of the Tornado. If Harrier was CAS for the Army what is is going to… Read more »

Rogbob
Rogbob
3 months ago
Reply to  Alabama boy

Its all more mixed in than that. Typhoon has replaced Tornado strike, employing Storm Shadow and PW IV.

CAS of course we have Reapers/Protectors in the mix and Apache, plus Typhoon with Brinstone and again, PWIV.

Spyinthesky
Spyinthesky
3 months ago
Reply to  Alabama boy

The US is in a similar situation, the F35 is still not qualified to replace the A10 and may never be a serious replacement. I suspect having looked at the Armenian conflict eyes are on drones to take on as much of that role as possible. In that conflict they destroyed a tenth of the Armenian tank fleet and they were hardly cutting edge examples having been developed within 5 years or so.

Daveyb
Daveyb
3 months ago
Reply to  Spyinthesky

I would not base any future air policy on the the Armenian/Azerbaijan conflict. For starters Azerbaijan had a lot of help from Turkey (and Israel). The Armenian air defence system was mostly stuff carried over from surplus Soviet stock piles following the end of the Cold War. A lot of it dated back to the 60’s. The most modern system they had is the S300SV, which is OK-ish. It dates back to the early 90’s and uses semi-active homing missiles backed up with command guidance. It is not designed to counter small loitering drones. If Azerbaijian tried the same tactics… Read more »

Ron5
Ron5
3 months ago
Reply to  Daveyb

The British army doesn’t have an air defense system so its in an even worse state than Armenia. A handful of Stormers with Starstreak doesn’t count.

DaveyB
DaveyB
3 months ago
Reply to  Ron5

At the moment I’d still say we are still in a much better place than Armenia was. From a purely Army perspective and not including the RAF or Navy, I’d say this is down to two, possibly three systems. The first is the Giraffe AMB radar. This is a frequency agile C band (4 to 8Ghz) radar. It has been designed for battlefield area management in particular looking for helicopters, UAVs, and artillery flight paths. The second is Rapier Field Standard C (FSC), the third would be the Starstreak/Stormer combination. The Giraffe AMB radar is getting on a bit, but… Read more »

Mark
Mark
3 months ago
Reply to  Andrew

F35 was never meant to be a replacement for Tornado, the original plan was to replace Sea Harrier and Harrier GR. Unfortunately repeated defence cuts saw both Harrier types disband before F35 was ready. There was no direct replacement for Tornado, just a mix of upgraded Typhoons and F35b ‘spun’ into being Tornado replacements.

Pete
Pete
3 months ago
Reply to  Mark

Sorry Mark. When the fly off between Boeing and LM concluded in 2001 the plans were for F35 to replace Sea Harrier, Harrier and Jaguar for the UK which was finally withdrawn in 2007 !

Paul T
Paul T
3 months ago
Reply to  Pete

My 2 pence worth – Typhoon originally was going to be 7 Squadrons – 5 to replace Tornado F3 in AD/QRA,and 2 to replace Jaguar ( Swing Role) ive never read anything to suggest F35 was to replace Jaguar.

Mark
Mark
3 months ago
Reply to  Paul T

Indeed, EFA was designed as a Phantom and Jaguar replacement (it always annoys me when people state that Typhoon’s ground attack capability was an after thought). By the time EFA became Typhoon the Cold War had ended and the Phantom fleet scrapped as part of the peace dividend, so Typhoon replaced Tornado F3. Had the Cold War continued i wonder what F3 would have been replaced by? Typhoons and F22’s ( in my dreams anyway)

Ron5
Ron5
3 months ago
Reply to  Mark

No, the original plan was for a carrier born aircraft period. The program name was Future Carrier Borne Aircraft (FCBA).

Mark
Mark
3 months ago
Reply to  Ron5

Correct, but FCBA swallowed Harrier GR as part of the SDR98. At that time no replacement aircraft had been chosen but JSF was being looked at, realistically this was the only option as FCBA was to replace SHAR in 2012 and GR three years later. Of interest how many F 35b did we have in 2015? A couple?

Meirion X
Meirion X
3 months ago
Reply to  Mark

It was proposed that FCAS was to replace the Tornado. The plan was scraped around 2006. The proposed aircraft would of met Germany’s requirement of nuclear strike.

Last edited 3 months ago by Meirion X
Rogbob
Rogbob
3 months ago
Reply to  Mark

Its a convoluted story, in the 80s Tornado was going to replace Jaguar (as it did in RAFG) but then the last batch were never ordered, Jag was cheap to run and very reliable (Tonka wasnt!) so Colt Jags endured post Cold war (heard chat they werent expected to and held as a potential sacrifical element!) but Jag proved useful in 90s ops. The Phantom replacment, which if you go back to the Air Staff Reqmt of the late 70s also specifically mentioned Jag hence why air to ground was fundamental to the design from the start, became EFA became… Read more »

Meirion X
Meirion X
3 months ago
Reply to  Rogbob

It amazing me why Germany did Not insist on the Typhoon to be a nuclear capable platform?

Last edited 3 months ago by Meirion X
Rogbob
Rogbob
3 months ago
Reply to  Meirion X

Cost. And it had and has Tornado, noting the last Tornados for then (ECRs iirc) were delivered only in the late 90s.

Germany’s nuclear posture is very odd frankly, being entirely a client of the US in a way that makes Trident look almost homegrown UK!

Given the pacificist streak in Germany it amazes me they still have a nuclear capability.

Meirion X
Meirion X
3 months ago
Reply to  Mark

Mark, was Not ‘Future Offence Air System'(FOAS), cancelled in 2005 mant to be a direct replacement of the Tornado?

Last edited 3 months ago by Meirion X
Mark
Mark
3 months ago
Reply to  Meirion X

Yes, you are correct. Although if you go back to the early 80’s the RAF had a short lived flirtation with a supersonic v/stol jet that would have replaced Harrier and Tornado. This got no further than some nice pictures before money went into EFA and i guess the Tornado replacement program went on the back burner until FOAS. Rogbob explains very well the changes, twists and turns thereafter. Most, if not all, caused by the end of the Cold War and spending reductions/ fleet consolidations of the 90’s and beyond.

Meirion X
Meirion X
3 months ago
Reply to  Mark

I do remember at one point, in the media, in the mid 1990’s that Germany wanted to cancel the Typhoon, Mark?

Rogbob
Rogbob
3 months ago
Reply to  Meirion X

Germany always wanted a smaller simpler (single engines) fighter more like an F16, which makes perfect sense as they wanted lots of something that could fight over Germany so range and payload werent an issue. The UK forced Typhoon to be larger as we had longer range tasks in mind. Iirc the German concepts of the late 70s for efa were single engines? The secretprojects forum probably has a lot more on all of this and will be a lot more accurate! Hence post cold war spending reductions the Germans forced EF2000 to be significantly less capable than the UK… Read more »

Mark
Mark
3 months ago
Reply to  Meirion X

I think the whole program was delayed by about a year because the Germans conducted a cost review. They wanted something cheaper. I believe they looked at installing an ‘in production’ radar, possibly taking the upgraded F4F radar in order to save money. The conclusion was it would actually cost more to integrate the cost saving measures, so all that was achieved was an expensive delay to the project.

Nigel Collins
Nigel Collins
3 months ago

The early F35Bs are said to have a structural lifetime of 2,100 flight hours which means they will need to be replaced and factored into the lifetime of the overall programme numbers. Some will need to be replaced as early as 2026. “Static Structural and Durability Testing • The program secured funding and contracted to procure another F-35B ground test article, which will have a redesigned wing-carry-through structure that is production representative of Lot 9 and later F-35B aircraft. Testing of this production-representative ground test article will allow the program to certify the life of F-35B design improvements. The production… Read more »

Watcherzero
Watcherzero
3 months ago

I read this as a target strength of 60 (likely by 2025) with 20 more anticipated to replace service losses/worn out aircraft spread over the decade until Tempest.

For example the ones the UK maintains in america as part of the combined training and development pool will likely be worn out relatively quickly.

Last edited 3 months ago by Watcherzero
James Fennell
James Fennell
3 months ago

I think the key take away from the F-35B saga is its really difficult for a UK government to cancel an order when its a joint venture with the US without losing a lot of industrial benefits. Maybe we should get them involved in Tempest as fast as possible?

Last edited 3 months ago by James Fennell
James H
James H
3 months ago

Where does all our money go? South korea and Japan are committing to them, they both have large armies, air forces and navies.
France has a smaller budget and Australia seems to be able to organise itself properly so
Why do we get so little for our money.

ChariotRider
ChariotRider
3 months ago
Reply to  James H

£5b spent on armoured fighting vehicles for the Army over 20 years and not ONE vehicle delivered when the NAO published its damning report last year! That’s why!

Cheers CR

James H
James H
3 months ago
Reply to  ChariotRider

But in general it would be interesting to know if we get good value from the defence budget by comparing it with others. Does Britain having more heavy lift aircraft and supply ships make up make up for the higher numbers of soldiers France has for example.
or once you take out the pension and the nuclear deterrent we dont really spend what we say.

ChariotRider
ChariotRider
3 months ago
Reply to  James H

HI James, Certainly we have made different choices and as a Island nation with a maritime history it is understandable that we would have a smaller Army and proportionally more effective Navy. As you rightly point out our heavy air lift capability is pretty unique in Europe. However, over the last 20 years we have wasted considerable sums on poor procurement decisions and as James Fennell points out in his post the defence budget has been made to shoulder the costs of our involvement in the Middle East wars since 9/11. Traditionally such costs would be borne by the national… Read more »

Ian
Ian
3 months ago
Reply to  ChariotRider

Hi CR
And who has Boris appointed to oversee this project….. the guy who spent the £5b
Thanks Ian

ChariotRider
ChariotRider
3 months ago
Reply to  Ian

Hi Ian,

To be fair he probably had some help, but yes madness. The officers responsible fo rthe £5b debacle should be held to account. That £5b could have been used to training more doctors and nurses for the NHS who would now be fully maxed out fighting a virus that has killed more ‘civilians’ in one year than the Luftwaffe killed during the Blitz. Sadly, the army wouldn’t be any worse off than it currently is!

Winds me up every time I think about it.

Grrr CR

James Fennell
James Fennell
3 months ago
Reply to  James H

We have been in a spiral of obsolesence since 2003. Operating costs always eating into capital budgets – basically we have not been able to pay for our armed forces running and operational costs and properly re-equip them. Blame 9/11, Iraq / Afghanistan, and then the 2008 crash if you like, but the defence budget has been made to pay for these impacts and has not been recapitalised for a generation. As a result programmes are pushed back, delayed, reformulated, and often cancelled as many are already obsolete or superceeded before delivery – especially in a time of rapid tech… Read more »

Last edited 3 months ago by James Fennell
Ian
Ian
3 months ago
Reply to  James Fennell

Hit the nail on the head there James F.

Mike
Mike
3 months ago

As my neighbours says who is an activist with ‘Yes Cymru’ this is the sort of news needed. It used to be a Unionist argument that Wales needed to be part of the UK for its defence. But now, the UK has such insignificant defence forces, it is another reason to go it alone. I was amazed. He showed me the latest polling results. Membership of ‘Yes Cymru’ is going through the roof. I’m afraid Boris is the best advert for the separatists ever. I just watch and wonder what the future really does hold.

Steve
Steve
3 months ago

60 is probably enough for the time being, but as the air frames age and availaibity drops, it could rapidly become a problem over the coming decades.

Challenger
Challenger
3 months ago

Good news! 80 is a sensible number, just hope this means the RAF will get a 2nd batch shortly after 2025 and we don’t see orders dragged out so much that no more than 40 something end up in service at any one time. As others have stated i don’t think work-share arrangements will be a huge issue with LM given Turkey dropping out and the £1 billion we forked out at the beginning for level 1 partner status. if we see approximately 180-190 Typhoon’s and F35’s in 5 and 4 squadrons respectively by 2030 that would be a decent… Read more »

Mark
Mark
3 months ago
Reply to  Challenger

Where are you getting 180+ Typhoons from, with the retirement of the T1 airframes in four years time we will have 107 Typhoons. I hope that this (F35) speculation comes to something and we replace the T1 Typhoons in the late 2020s with extra F35s. I don’t see how we can maintain 7 front line operational Typhoon squadrons with 107 jets as well as fielding aircraft for test and training. With 80 F35s we could have 5 Typhoon and 4 Lightning Squadrons by the end of the decade.

Challenger
Challenger
3 months ago
Reply to  Mark

I meant 107 Typhoons and 70 or 80 F35 in total! 5 Typhoon squadrons and 4 F35 squadrons by the end of the decade was always the rough aspiration so it’s good there’s still a chance of achieving this if sufficient numbers of F35 are ordered around 2025.

Johan
Johan
3 months ago

Ask the RAF a simple question, HOW MANY FAST JET PILOTS does it currently have on the force.

Lack of pilot training is a real issue.

Rogbob
Rogbob
3 months ago
Reply to  Johan

Shhhhhhhhhhhhh such reality ruins all fantasies.

Ron5
Ron5
3 months ago
Reply to  Johan

There are plenty of pilots and more to become available after the Typhoons are retired. They will not delay future F-35’s acquisitions.

expat
expat
3 months ago

Whilst the cost of the F35 is coming down, the ‘B’ version is the most expensive, the USD/GBP exchange rate has tanked during the program making the jet more expensive and cost per flying hour is also prohibitive. Remember during conception the F35 was suppose to be as cost effective as the F16 to fly, that’s not the case and won’t be for sometime, if ever. Perhaps 138 jets was affordable on paper but at current exchange rate and costs its not.

Ron5
Ron5
3 months ago
Reply to  expat

Exchange rates are volatile right now, who knows where they will be when this second batch of F-35’s are purchased. If Brexit Britain is a success, they won’t be a problem.

expat
expat
3 months ago
Reply to  Ron5

Flip side is exports would become more expensive. Its double edge sword lower exchange rates help export and increases production runs make UK buys cheaper. tbh, I’d be happy with the lower F35 buy due to a poor exchange rate if it means we export more.

Derek
Derek
3 months ago
Reply to  expat

Govt orders are affected by exchange rates of course but not as much as we mere mortals. Foreign exchange firms buy dollars and stockpile them when the rate is favorable so they can sell at preferential rates regardless of the ‘headline’ rate. HMG can buy dollars much more favorably than you or I. They can also buy foreign equipment at a fixed price for a fixed period to iron out exchange rate movement.

Mr Bell
Mr Bell
3 months ago

80 has to be the minimum surely? Otherwise both carriers cant be deployed at same time and there is zero reserve or attritional aircraft for RAF/ FAA.

Herodotus
3 months ago

Flight Global’s report:
Typhoon, C-130J and Puma retirements, FCAS investment headline UK defence review | News | Flight Global

They raise an eyebrow at the attribution of the Chinook to AAC operation. To me this sort of error (lack of care and attention to an official document) is symptomatic of a poorly run ministry. How many punters on this sight would make such a mistake? Time to review the MOD!

Lusty
Lusty
3 months ago
Reply to  Herodotus

Maybe they employed someone from the Plymouth Herald to write it?

As I mentioned to Daniele, General Sir Nick Carter refered to RFA Argus as ‘HMS’ Argus*. If he can’t understand basic structures and who operates what, one doesn’t hold much hope for anything really.

*The last HMS Argus was scrapped in 1946.

Mark
Mark
3 months ago
Reply to  Lusty

Not only him, during his speech the DefSec said Typhoon instead of Harpoon when talking about RN missile replacements.