The 14th F-35B for the United Kingdom has been delivered by Lockheed Martin.

It is hoped that 138 F-35 aircraft will have been delivered by the 2030s. Around 2023, the Ministry of Defence have indicated that the UK will have 42 F-35 aircraft with 24 available as ‘front-line fighters’ and the remaining 18 will be used for training (at least 4-5 on the OCU), be in reserve or in maintenance.

As the only level one partner on the F-35 programme, the UK has been working closely with the US from the outset. UK industry will provide approximately 15% by value of each F-35 to be built, which are due to total more than 3000 in number. The programme has already generated $12.9Bn worth of orders for the UK and at peak production the programme will support over 24,000 jobs in the UK.

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said:

“This Christmas delivery is the 14th jet to join our fleet of fifth-generation F-35 fighters over in the US. The Carriers have taken centre-stage this year, and next year we look towards these aircraft joining us in Britain and taking off from HMS Queen Elizabeth’s enormous deck to undertake First of Class Flight Trials. With our famous Royal Air Force coming into its 100th anniversary, the F-35 keeps us right at the cutting-edge of combat air power.”

Lt. Col. Brian Bann walks down the flight line after landing an F-35B Lightning II at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort.

Peter Ruddock, Chief Executive of Lockheed Martin UK said:

“There are more than 500 UK companies in our supply chain who play a vital role in producing every F-35 and we are proud to have delivered the UK’s 14th aircraft on schedule. More than 260 F-35s are now flying from 14 bases around the world and we look forward to supporting the UK’s Lightning Force, as they prepare to bring their F-35s to the UK and achieve initial operational capability next year.”

In 2018, the aircraft – along with the Navy and RAF pilots and ground crew – will arrive in the UK to officially stand up at RAF Marham in Norfolk.  RAF Marham will be the Main Operating Base for the Lightning Force in the UK and from here, they will deploy forward to either embark on-board our Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers, or operate from Deployed Operating Bases.

Numbers right now are exactly 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.

The next year and next run brings us to the total of the first batch of aircraft, 48.


The variant to be used by the United Kingdom, the F-35B, is already less than Typhoon which has an estimated flyaway cost of around $141m.

According to a press release:

“The price reduction for the air vehicle was 8 percent and when adding in engine and fee, the overall total jet reduction is 7 percent. This is the largest F-35 contract ever for 90 jets, a more than 40 percent increase from LRIP 9 for 57 jets.”

The US Department of Defense and Lockheed Martin have reportedly reached an agreement in principle on the lowest priced F-35 run to date marking the first time the price for an F-35A has fallen below $100M.

The F-35A is expected to cost $85 million, less than any fourth-generation fighter ‘in the 2019-2020 timeframe’ with the other two F-35 variants also reducing significantly in price.

Jeff Babione, Lockheed Martin’s programme manager for the F-35, told reporters that the cost of the F-35 will drop to about $85 million by 2019, something also reiterated in a recent statement regarding price-concerns raised by US president-elect Donald Trump. This is understood to be thanks to efficiencies and cost-cutting manufacturing technologies. The B and C variants are also steadily reducing in cost and are expected to match it.

By contrast, the US Navy’s F/A-18E/F Super Hornet fighter aircraft comes in at $98.3 million (2016 flyaway cost.

One of the UK’s first F-35Bs.

Jeff Babione said:

“We think that price with this capability will be unbeatable. You’ll be able to afford a fifth-generation airplane for what would be a fourth-generation price for anything else offered in the free world. The Lockheed/BAE/Northrop Grumman contractor team is hyper-focused on reducing the price of the airplane. It is a fact this program is over budget from 2001’s baseline. It’s just true. We will never underrun that number.

We will never save that money. It’s gone. What matters is since that time, what’s happened to the cost on the program? It’s gone down, not gone up. Judge the program today, not where it’s been, but where it is and where it’s going.”

The initial operating capability for carrier strike, which is scheduled for December 2020, will consist of one carrier, one squadron of Lightnings and Crowsnest airborne early warning and control helicopters.

Earl Howe, Minister of State for the Ministry of Defence and Deputy Leader of the House of Lords said during a debate in the House of Lords:

“My Lords, the initial operating capability for carrier strike, which is scheduled for no later than December 2020, will consist of one carrier, one squadron of Lightnings and Crowsnest.”

Captain Jerry Kyd, commander of HMS Queen Elizabeth, commented last year on the initial deployment and the gradual increase in air wing numbers:

“We’re constrained by the F-35 buy-rate even though that was accelerated in SDSR in 2015, so initial operating capability numbers in 2020 are going to be very modest indeed. We will flesh it out with helicopters, and a lot depends on how many USMC F-35s come on our first deployment in 2021.

But by 2023, we are committed to 24 UK jets onboard, and after that it’s too far away to say.”

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Nice early Christmas present, probably still has that new jet smell.

Geoffrey Roach

Leather seats and a pipe in the ash tray?

andy reeves

and cup holders


On the thread about Israel’s F-35 being declared operational and a few comments about why the UK has got so few so far, 2 points… 1 – It hasn’t. We are getting them at, for an international partner, a decent rate. We now have more than Israel and possibly more than any country outside of the USA (I’d need to check on that one to be 100% sure). 2 – I think we are doing absolutely the right thing keeping them based in the USA for so long. One thing that has differentiated the UK armed forces for a long… Read more »

Mike Saul

Taking into account the LRIP 11orders we would be the biggest non US customer for long.

48 F-35A for USAF, 18 F-35B for USMC, 8 F-35C for USN/USMC, 8 F-35A for Netherlands, 6 F-35A for Norway, 4 F-35A for Turkey, 8 F-35A for Australia, 1 F-35A for Italy, 1 F-35B for United Kingdom,


There is no point in moving them to the uk until QE is operational and they can begin training. Are the marines fully operational with their f35b on the wasp ships i thought the uk was training in one of their ships to speed up their integration on QE

Malcolm Palin

great answer


Great news

Pete warren

Have shared this on Facebook just to keep all the ignorant up to date. So annoying to hear all those bad mouthing the project through ignorance.

Mike Saul

Another 34 to go before we hit the 2026 target. Slow but steady progress.

Given the dire financial constraints this is reasonable, I hope we get the full 138 by say 2035.


I just hipe we break 100. I dont see the uk ordering 138 unless the us threatens to strip them of being a teir 1 parter. Having said that a lot of european countrues will order the bare minimum. Turkey will prob order more than the rest of the EU

andy reeves

I won’t be holding my breath, that’s for sure, for all the grump from Lockheed, they missed their production figure of 66 last year by 8 aircraft.



F-35s on the QE will be potent.

andy reeves

that’s the crux of the whole u.k carrier project

El Timbo

haha hilarious to claim the F35B is cheaper than a Typhoon! first the B series hasn’t even reached real IOC yet, there are at least 2 more major software updates to go before it can be of ANY use in a conflict (B’s can’t even accurately deliver a weapon to a ground target without help yet ) The projected unit cost for a basic operational B will mostly likely be around €132million, way above Tranche3B Typhoons A Typhoon is a mature aircraft, able to deliver full A2A and A2G weapons in all weathers (now that Brimstone has cleared trials), so… Read more »

John Stevens

Good news!!!


I think we should also be more aware (as is briefly mentioned) the USMC have committed in writing to adding Squadron strength numbers of aircraft to our own on-board numbers as they were given priority in F-35B production. And a little inter service rivalry will sharpen the learning curve somewhat. So next year QE may well have 12 UK aircraft and 12 USMC aircraft For me its just an amazing experience to once again see the UK building big carriers, being part of a huge new aircraft project and to see carrier strike restored to the best Navy in the… Read more »

David Stephen

Hey Chris, the USMC are indeed expected to supply a squadron for QE maiden deployment and maybe even some V-22s but this will not be a regular occurrence. They have their own amphibious decks to fill. Outside a major joint operation or an occasional training opportunity our carriers won’t be hosting US aircraft on a regular basis. The plan is still 24 of our own F-35B (eventually) but even before that 12 F-35B, 9 Merlin ASW, 5 Merlin AEW plus some Apache and maybe a couple of Chinook will make a pretty decent package. The help from the USN &… Read more »

andy reeves

we not be the biggest we are and always will be the best.


Agree with you Chris.. This is a real genuine positive for the UK armed forces, much needed too. Like you will be looking forward to seeing the UK and USA F35’s operate from the Multi-Role carrier.

Lee H

Evening all Sorry for sounding a little pessimistic whilst this is great news it is expected news. We have on the one hand the Sec Def announcing with great fanfare a wonderful Christmas present (pretty sure the best presents are surprises but hey-ho) hidden away was another small part of the surface fleet being decommissioned. Decommissioning that wasn’t planned hence hidden from view. The MCM fleet is one of the RN best capabilities, trusted and used worldwide. 20 years ago the anti-sub capability was one of the RN’s best capabilities and now look where it is. Sometimes we get dazzled… Read more »


Hopefully it can be filled by refitting a type 23 ahead of schedule


Lee I can’t agree more at the very least they should be placed in extended readiness


But but but … the QE is a dud aircraft carrier with no aircraft!

andy reeves

no that’s just rubbish, they aren’t as big as he u.s carriers, but I think the higher sortie rate of the q.e will show that hey aren’t duds.


Realised some time ago two MCMV would be going was not a surprise today this news. Been saying for quite a while in Wikipedia when you look up the RN fleet numbers. Agree shame they cannot be placed in ready reserve.

andy reeves

agreed ships that could indeed be of great use in the future are often cast away without being noticed, a ready reserve is a luxury but a very good thing to have.

Mr Bell

Very slow and lethargic introduction into service. I guess by not getting many of the LRIP aircraft we are allowing price to drop and the developmental problems to be ironed out.
Just hope that full production batches are ordered in larger numbers. We need at least another 48 aircraft but would love to get upto the 138 promised in SDSR 2015.

andy reeves


andy reeves

not sure I like the phrase ‘modest indeed’ if we’ve got a bloody big carrier I would prefer to see it operating with a full load, given the tensions and areas around the globe at the moment, a u . k carrier group could be required to deploy and if needed prosecute military actions, so to see the carriers operating at full load, would show just good they are(or not)

andy reeves

can u .kd j get any kind of news on the dragon fire testing?