The F-35A was 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.

“Our initial target is to get them down to the equivalent or very close to what we’re currently spending to sustain fourth-generation fighters” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Dave Goldfein.

“We’re going to be buying these aircraft for a number of years, so it’s way too early to be talking about any curtailment of any procurement or any buy.”

Stephen Lovegrove, the MoD permanent secretary, had earlier expressed doubt over this earlier in the year:

“This is a new platform, and I am constantly being asked by parliamentarians in the U.K. as to what the total cost is going to be, and they are sometimes, understandably, a bit frustrated when I have to turn around and say at the moment: ‘Nobody is entirely sure’. But we must maintain an absolutely laser-like focus on keeping those costs down because historically this is the one area where we’ve been OK at buying stuff, but we’ve not been necessarily good at sustaining and operating it as cost effectively as we possibly can. We need to work very, very hard on that, and we are doing so.”

Jeff Babione, the previous Lockheed Martin programme manager for the F-35, told reporters that the cost of the F-35A 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.

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

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.”


    • It is what is happening. Why do you think we are only committed to buying 48 jets. Only 15 have been delivered, there is no point buying more at the moment. We buy them in batches, each time they get cheaper. We could save anywhere from 500m to several billion.

      • As long as the viability of keeping production lines open is economically rewarding, the UK would be wise to drip feed the fleet build up. Usually, costs do level or drop depending on volume with any mass produced item. The ongoing strides in material development and simplifying electronics; could have a profound impact on reducing cost over the lifetime of the plane.
        Is there a possibility the MOD might buy a squadron (or two) of F35a’s to augment land-based Typhoon operations? The cost reduction on this variant appears to be very attractive, and might make more sense to buy the ‘A’ than struggle to keep the Typhoon production lines open? I’m not sure what the price differences are between F35a and the latest tranch Typhoon, but if the former is less the RAF might strengthen its fleet without incurring crippling costs? In effect, it would share many components with the ‘B’ and create a true Jaguar replacement.

        • The problem with such an approach is it leaves you in a position where you may have several variant modification levels of aircraft – they are all different. This creates an absolute bloody nightmare for the poor buggers that have to maintain them leads to increased cost and down time.

  1. With the current trend of the UK pound against the US Dollar increasing, it might be time to invest in the A variant soon?

    Let’s hope Brexit doesn’t affect the decision!

    • Nigel – Can I ask some questions?
      Why would we buy the F-35A when we will have a fleet of F-35B?

      Why invest ‘soon’? The Pound has been strengthening against the Euro and $ for many months as the initial market panic over ‘Project Fear’, the B of E’s failure to raise interest rates and those ‘forecasts’ were proven to be utter tripe has abated. It is now about where it was in February 2016 and no one was mentioning it in every discussion then were they?

      And what on earth has Brexit to do with it? Or are you another commentator that assumes it dominates everything?

      I do #FacePalm when I see Brexit entering every discussion these days …sorry

  2. fuck buying the f35a we should look at installing arrestor gear on the carriers (is it even possible? )and purchasing c2 greyhounds for air to air refueling. then pave the way for hopping on the UCAV refueling project now demonstrators are up and running. we’ve sold ourselves short with the F35B

    • The carriers were always designed to operate the F35-“B”. To convert the carriers would cost billions and would delay their entry into service by at least 5 years. Buying the C2 greyhound is not affordable.

      We have the F35-B, it is not changing. Get with the program or be quiet.

      • Ben – Its the preconditioning of seeing US style carriers for so many years (forgetting of course their physical appearance and operation shows many British ideas and developments). The power of Hollywood is quite frightening. People assume the American Way is the only way, lack the ability to think laterally, give new ideas a try and see alternatives to ‘received wisdom’.

        While the carriers are passively engineered for later CATOBAR at major refit if necessary I think we may have just developed something as influential as our stem catapults and angled decks were. Transferring technology to the aircraft rather than spending £ Bns on the ship may be the way forward. Who knows but I am prepared to give it an open mind.

    • reaper – Ignoring your assumption CATOBAR is the only way forward for a carrier you should know that the C-2 Greyhound isn’t a carrier borne tanker. It is a freight and personnel transport. Only one was ever trialled with a drogue system and it was forgotten.

      The US Navy use F-18 Hornets for ‘Buddy Up’ tankers like we used to do with Sea Vixens in the ’60s and later with Buccaneers. Yes they copied yet another of our ideas so we know how to do it.

      I would rather see the 4 early development F-35Bs we have in the USA converted to A2A tankers to ‘Buddy Up’ carrier F-35B aircraft. They will never see combat, have the very basic early software and have the space for extra tanks rather than weapons. Its an easy task but I suspect the MoD are too fixated on buying new to try it. Its certainly more relevant and cost effective to fitting CATOBAR just so we can try Greyhounds the US Navy already abandoned as tankers.

  3. There won’t be F35A’s in the UK inventory.. We want too be a quick reaction deployable force like when we had been with the Harriers, although smaller then, but in greater numbers. Cause you need some aircraft for training, and you need enough for replacement over regular maintanace schedules. For that all efforts are being brought to bear to 1 reduce the price of the F35B so that an accelerated buy can take place so as to reach the 138 F35B’s needed..

  4. I have rarely known a program so debated as this one. It is no surprise that the UK is now in position 5/7 in military scale whilst our country has advanced.

        • Actually I don’t think this one is TH. TH might well be a Brit and did at times try to argue a case that the U.K. should retreat from expeditionary operations and concentrate all military spending on home defence primarily predicated upon concerns regarding the state of U.K. public finances (the deficit and the national debt). I don’t agree with his conclusions but he did at least on occasion try to enter into reasoned arguments to support his case.

          This is probably an idiotic non-Brit with nothing to say apart from “wee U.K.” over and over again. A Russian troll? Irish or Scottish with a thing about England/the U.K.? A child in its bedroom with nothing better to do? We’ll never know for sure.

          • To give TH his due ( I must be mad ) he / she has toned it down a lot over the months. The opinions he / she has on what the UK should be go down like a lead balloon to me, but as Julian says he has a stated reason, most of the time. And he is entitled to them.

            A few times I have actually agreed with him, and am happy to acknowledge when I do.

            This Peder individual just posts crap. Which can be debunked in return in short order.

      • Levi – the numbnuts ‘peder’ is a Scot who, following some odd SNP rationale, thinks Scotland isn’t part of the UK. And if he thinks the UK military is ‘wee’ then the two patrol boats and kayak that Scotland would have post independence would be ‘mightily wee’ surely?

    • You say ‘you’re’ but in another comment section you claimed you served in the British armed forces. You’re truly pathetic. Even TH isn’t as revolting as you.

    • The uk is the 5th richest nation some thing russia doesnt even come close to with its flat lined economy 12th GDP in world so no ponit pederski going there lol!

  5. Am I correct in thinking the government hasn’t given the go ahead to order the full 138 yet? I suppose if thats the case then it makes sense for them to hold off for later, cheaper batches

  6. Hi Chris,
    Perhaps you should be asking Lord Howe that question!

    Maybe keep up to date with what the government is currently considering and what will be the final make up the final total of F35 variants? 138 in total I believe?


    As for the pound, i’m fully aware of the current trend as I mentioned previously. And a bad Brexit could clearly affect that current trend.

    I hope that answers your question along with the attached link.

  7. Also, I’ve only just joined this forum so I have no idea what comments have been made in the past in relation to Brexit. Thank you for the welcome.

    • Nigel – Having a strong debate is what this Forum is about so while I didn’t realise you were new my questions were made in a polite but firm way. Anyway welcome to the madhouse …

      Now people can debate the mix of UK fighter aircraft needs in 20+ years time by all means (Typhoon will be with us until 2040) but the immediate assumption it is ‘What sort of F-35’ rather than ‘what sort of aircraft’ will close the discussion down and hence my challenge of ‘Why the F-35A?’

      In Typhoon we have a world beating QRA, air combat and advanced ground attack platform with long range and one of the best Supercruise capabilities that is now reaching its full potential. It must as it will next year replace Tornado. The RAF will therefore have an easier supply and maintenance regime to manage with just one airframe to cover all duties. So the question is ‘why add another? To which I would add we should be ordering more Tranche 3 Typhoons now to replace the older, limited Tranche 1 airframes we are restoring to operations and we should be asking industry for a Typhoon II that could improve the way we do those operations at less cost.

      Lets just understand where the RAF and FAA will be in 2040:
      * The QE will be due her mid life refit in 2040 so will she return as CATOBAR, STOVL or maybe an advanced UCAV launch platform?
      * The F-35Bs being delivered now will be due for replacement. But with what?
      * Given the Typhoon will have played such a massive and key role in our air defence and strategic thinking what will replace that and where do we want to be?

      To me the F-35A adds nothing to this real debate.

      The arrival of the F-35B had three objectives (to me) which was a) restoring UK Carrier Strike capability to the FAA at minimum cost, b) possibly restoring and advancing the unique STOVL capabilities we lost with Harrier to the RAF. and c) moving into advanced sensor and stealth aerial warfare on the back of investment with the USA. What we must all understand (and its something I am happy with) is the F-35 in any form cannot perform the range of duties in total or as well in each section as the Typhoon can now and will do for some years. Personally I wonder why we need 138 F-35Bs but then if it garnered increased workshare and we ‘change our minds’ as the French frequently do that suits me as well.

      The debate as I say should be ‘What aircraft will we need beyond 2040?’ not ‘Which F-35 should we have?’

      • Hi Chris, you may some good points …..

        But I think it’s too early to move this debate onto 2040 and beyond; firstly because most of the people on this forum will be long gone by then (!), but more seriously, because our air-power is not properly resourced or configured today.

        Why the F-35A Lightning? That’s easy to answer. Because it’s a better aircraft than the STOVL B-variant. Carrier strike is a useful addition to our inventory, but evidence suggests that the majority of combat jet operations will still be conducted from airbases. In my view, we do not need the niche capabilities of the B-variant beyond about 70 airframes to equip one operational carrier, with a training and attrition reserve.

        Good logistics is one element of running a successful air-force, but it needs to be balanced by having sufficient aircraft, and of appropriate capabilities, best configured to meet operational tasks. In my opinion, that is Typhoon FGA4, F-35A, and F-35B.

        The UK has lots of experience in running multiple aircraft types, and in those halcyon days of the early 1990s was actually running Tornado IDS, Tornado ADV, Phantom F-4 (UK) with J79 engines, Phantom F-4 (Spey engines), Jaguar, Sea Harrier, Harrier and Buccaneer.

        No doubt that arrangement was very inefficient, but we can certainly run with three types ….. !

        I do agree with you though that a top-up order of further Typhoons for the RAF would be very welcome, although given a choice between putting scarce resources into either the Warton product, or the F-35A, I would plump for the Lightning II ……. reports suggest it will bring a step-change in combat jet capabilities.

  8. In regards to catobar on the carriers, whilst I am happy with what we have and it will be a force to be reckoned with, we are now limited to only flying the F35b from them. All this talk of Ucavs teaming up with them cannot happen. As far as I’m aware, no one is working on a stovl version of one and would surely make them twice as expensive. We will not have the option to fly many platforms from the QE’s in the way the us will be able to. It will be interesting to see if we regret our decision a few years down the line.

  9. Morning all
    I wouldn’t discount the F-35A just yet.
    It is far cheaper than the F-35B and has longer range and bigger bays.
    The RAF would be getting good value for money and a very good return in investment if it were to procure say upto 48 A model platforms to replace the Tornado in the deep strike role.
    This would allow 2 full Sqns of combat air and the required number of training and attrition. Remember the U.K. could create a European NATO training centre for the A, very much like RAF Cottesmore was for the Tornado fleet.
    The military is evolving, it is the year of the RAF and this could be their announcement as part of MDP.

    • Lee – Forgive me pointing out the F-35A cannot deliver anywhere near what the Tornado can now let alone what the Typhoon will from next year in that strike / ground support role. It is by any measure (in that role ) just simply inferior. So why? And again if we are going to fund 48 new airframes they should be Typhoons to replace Tranche 1 aircraft and increase that strike capability not reduce it.

      As for your thinking the UK could become some sort of Euro – F-35 training centre on the back of this well sorry but you are deluded. We are the only Tier One Partner but major airframe repair has gone to Italy and all P & W engine maintenance has gone to Turkey. RAF Marham may be our F-35 centre of excellence but as far as the Americans are concerned it will stock widgets and boxes of fuses for Europe ….

      • Hi Chris
        It is not about the amount of ordinance carried but about how close you can get your weapon to the grand strategic/strategic centre of gravity. With the A you have a much better chance. Look at the arguments that are currently going on in Germany with their Air Force and Defence Department. Their Air Force want the A, but German government want Typhoon. Why?
        German Air Force know how air power works and how it can best effect the outcome. German government know that Typhoon is built in Germany and are willing to trade the risk of limiting the effective outcome to satisfy their industries.
        Typhoon is an amazing bit of kit, on par with anything else out there but the A is better at interdiction and strike.
        Ground support is not what the A is designed for, neither is Typhoon.
        When HMG buys aircraft is buys them with “caveats” as all governments do. Most US F-35A European aircraft will be based in the U.K.
        a U.K./US support hub, a joint operating base even is just the kind of thing that works well T the political and military level.
        The MoD, as part of the MDP has been asked to think outside the box, if they want extra money they are going to have to earn it.
        Change is coming – in how we generate combat effect, not everyone is going to be satisfied.

    • We have time to watch and wait. Italy is planning a mixed F-35 A and B fleet, Japan might be heading the same way, Israel was once considering adding some B to the mix for austere basing and might yet go ahead with that, and maybe Spain for Juan Carlos as well. Soon there could be quite a few real life examples to see whether the A and B logistics are divergent enough to cause big fleet-within-fleet headaches or whether there is sufficient commonality to make it a manageable issue.

      (The USA doesn’t really count as an exemplar because it’s numbers and resources are so huge anyway that running totally independent logistics operations isn’t an issue and since B is USMC and A is USAF separate operations are perhaps already pre-proscribed anyway.)

      • Israel is still considering a F-35B purchase.

        I reckon final numbers for them would be 75 F-35A’s and 25 B’s.

        Italy is getting 30 B’s. Turkey probably wants 24 B’s. Japan is at least getting 40 B’s. Korea maybe 20-30 B’s. Further options for B purchases maybe Singapore.

        UK produces the 30% of the F-35B in comparison so especially good for the UK.

        One of the reasons the UK gets such a good deal in comparison to Italy beyond the 48 extra orders and tier one partnership is the amount of tech contribution. One of my buddies in the UK told me that the UK contribution a lot of the STOVL tech for the program. They have just as much experience as the USA did in operating STOVL planes.

  10. The fall in procurement costs is most welcome, however I have about the cost of future software updates. Given the 20 million lines of software code that will be an expensive one ounce cost.

    Future F35 purchases, I think we should purchase the minimum number of F35B to sustain one carrier group, so around 50 and any further purchases should be of the A variant given its lower cost, greater range and weapon lift.

    I understand that a F35A will be able to carry 20000 lbs of weapons in its internal bays and external pylons.

    The RAF, as reported in Jane’s on several occasions, favours the F35A of its superior warfighting capability.

  11. It is claimed the F35 project will sustain 24000 jobs in the UK whilst in Italy the figure is 6000.

    It looks to me that the UK has a cracking deal on the F35, not sure why people are complaining about Italy and Turkey getting their share of F35 work.

    • Assembly line is sexy, got those headlines. “UK produces 100 F-35’s for European Allies.” Even though assembly really is only 5% of the work.

      UK gets a lot more tech transfer for their work as well.

  12. Morning all.

    Having read all comments I would say again I have no issue with the F35A for the RAF in the numbers Lee suggested.

    The key is and always was that the F35B needs to be procured in sufficient numbers first to surge at least 1 QEC.

    Lee, wow that is going back a bit. TTTE Cottesmore. Most younger commentators will only remember it for the Harrier. I’d actually forgotten it!

    • Afternoon
      I know, living the dream of my younger years.
      $85M per unit, even with exchange rate (now almost back to where it was pre-Brexit), the RAF are going to start looking seriously at it. Remember they sacrificed the Harrier to keep Tornado.
      Get F-35B to IOC, get the mixed wing up and proven (U.K. Sqn and USMC Sqn) up and running.
      You will start hearing things about operating together, sharing resources, accepting that having both carriers fully stocked with 36 U.K. FJ air is not realistically going to happen. 24 per carrier maybe but with USMC Sqn embedded to take us to 36.
      RAF want the A – it’s all about being able to strike the centres of gravity, you need to get as close to the centre as possible to have most effect. The A with Storm Shadow et al will do that, Typhoon and Tornado will get seen to far out so as to have the right effect.

  13. Thank you Chris,
    I’m pleased to be part of these debates!

    After taking time over the past year to look into the lack of investment in our armed forces given the current and future threats that we face, I was simply staggered as to why we keep purchasing of the shelf products rather than invest in building our own?

    Typhoon as you so rightly point out is an incredible asset to replace the outgoing Tornado, and the sale and replacement of the Tranch 1 aircraft would clearly make sense.

    It would make even more sense to have tested and replaced the engines given that a more powerful thrust vectoring version exists (since 2009) and increased the Typhoons performance further still.

    We may even be able to land an takeoff from the new carriers? Or, invest in a third cat launched carrier with the USA who are interested in building this type of platform? It never made much sense to me why we only have two anyway, with only one on station at any given time.

    Playing catch up and doing things on the cheap never works out in the end!

    As we are at least ten years behind where we need to be right now this might be a useful stop gap and allow us to invest and develop a 6th generation fighter/bomber for the 2030’s.

    It’s time the government freed up more money, which we have, but give away at every opportunity it seems and invest in British built aircraft for the future. We have the Technological know how after all!

  14. If this is the case by 2025 we really should seriously consider the A variant as a replacement for the tornado, as initially proposed. Ideally we would have 48 aircraft operationally of both types. This would mean the carriers would always have at least 24 aircraft assigned to them each at any time.

  15. Gents, I am firmly in the B camp and am even comfortable with the Gripen as a typhoon replacement eventually. But my preference is for Typhoon, F35B and a large volume of Taranis.

    F35 is a game changer in my opinion and if we could get 2-4 Taranis being managed to target by an F35 which is set up to defend itself (as opposed to carrying bombs) then I think this has the benefits of high end tech (f35) with an equally high end but much lower cost delivery mechanism (Taranis/Magma). This would mean that we could purchase 200-400 taranis to be managed by 120 or so F35’s.

    I therefore think we need to think out of the box on this (in a very British Way) and produce a solution that is ahead of our completion.

    Lastly – we need an operational fleet of circa 148 (not a total buy of F35B’s) as the 2 carriers can easily hold 60 of these each at full load.

    So for me – lets forget about the A variant, move onto an F35/Taranis operating model (cost and risk reduced) and lead the world in a mixed UCAV/Active fleet.

    Also for the carriers a purchase of V22 Osprey is probably more important than the F35A at this point in time.

        • agreed, that’s why these will be controlled by a pilot in a standoff position sitting in an F35B, doing all the theatre management, jamming, comms etc.

    • Pacman – I cannot verify this but apparently the Israelis have been stretching the legs of theirs (A version) with impressive distances covered.Im with you in that I have for a while thought that the Gripen can offer some affordable capability to our fighter force – surely it can do anything from QRA to bombing terrorists in the deserts of Syria and Iraq ( do you really need a £100 million aircraft to combat isis).But I admit it would take a huge leap of faith and imagination for the Gripen to even be mentioned let alone considered for the RAF.I concede that a Typhoon/F35b fleet is what we are looking at for the foreseeable future,like others here I can see advantages for the ‘A’ and even the ‘C’ but that argument has been done enough I think.

  16. I really don’t understand way we always get a rehash of the should have gone for cats and traps, the F35b is rubbish….ra ra ra.

    Actually trying to maintain cat and trap air wings is a mare, France constantly struggles and always has a problem keeping its pilots qualified, it’s the bane of any carrier force other than the USN.

    Going with the F35b removed this massive problem at a single move, by all accounts it’s very easy to qualify a pilot. This is what lets the RAF share the carriers as an asset and ensures purple sign up to their future. It means in the future inextremist we can literally load up all our F35bs onto our carriers and operate them from there. They also have more chance of operating against an enemy trying to hammer our fast jet infrastructure.

    In essence the F35b is just about the best thing that happened to a nation with exposed airbases and a need to get back into the carrier game while only maintaining 7-8 fast jet squadrons.

    To put it another way F£&k the A and C.

  17. (Chris H) It is truly disappointing the way so many here are wanting to export UK skilled jobs to the USA by killing Typhoon manufacture and buying the F-35A. An aircraft that has ONE advantage – it can offer early defence suppression and nothing more but we have that with the ‘B’ variant already. Indeed it is less capable than the Typhoon in all other areas. And as someone suggested most operations will be from land bases and so while the ‘B’ can be used for suppression it will be the Typhoon that delivers the seriously capable destructive power.

    So what does an F-35A offer that we do not already have with the F-35B + Typhoon package (post 2019)? I would suggest it offers nothing at all and certainly nothing that warrants the final destruction of fighter manufacture in the UK.

    • Hi Chris, What does the F-35 programme offer? It allows the UK the ability to join the United States on the first night of offensive operations against the integrated air-defence network of a peer adversary. Politically, that is hugely important to the UK, and gives it disproportionate influence in Washington.

      The greater payload and range of the F-35A will allow the RAF to co-operate more effectively with the USAF in their targeting plan, than if equipped solely with the more limited F-35B.

      To my mind, that is the criteria for the purchase of the F-35, and if a nation doesn’t wish to be a Tier 1 coalition partner in such an enterprise, then it would be much better-off buying an outstanding 4.5 Gen combat jet like Typhoon Tranche 3 – as I hope Germany & Belgium will do. I agree that in certain flight regimes, the Typhoon appears superior to the Lightning II. Like you, I hope manufacturing at Warton can be maintained through continued success in the export market, and perhaps a top-up order for the RAF. (We’re almost on the same page!)

      Evidence suggests that the new generation of Russian built SAMs has high-lethality. Indeed it appears that Typhoon may have suffered its first combat loss in Sept 2017, when a Saudi aircraft and its pilot were lost in operations over Yemen against Houthi fighters, armed with advanced Iranian surface-to-air weaponry.

      In RAF service, I see the F-35 as supplementing Typhoon in early strikes against an opponent’s air-defence network. I agree we would be very unwise to rely solely on the American jet, or export advanced manufacturing jobs to the Forth Worth facility in Texas. It’s all about striking a balance between UK strategic, operational and industrial needs.

      • Alan the true question is can we support three fleets of fast jets, when we only have an ambition to have 7-8 fast jet squadrons.

        I would say not, which means we can only realistically pick 2 out of 3 from typhoon, f35b and f35a.

        If at present typhoon is a must, we can only stick to either f35b or F35a. On paper in isolation one to one the A is the better aircraft.

        But if you take the wider needs of the U.K. And look a the whole picture, from a deployment piont of view the B is just hands down better. An aircraft carrier puts the B in range of every nation on earth, without asking for fly over permission or basing rights, where as politics could have the As out of the picture or only able to make a couple of sorties in a day due to distance and tanking (as evidenced by how challenging it was to generate Tonka sorties over North Africa).

        As for being a partner to the US, a flat top with 24 F35bs and mixed rotor assets is worth far more than a couple of squadrons of As that may or may not be able to base in or on the same continent as the theatre of operations.

        As a political tool in geopolitics the A is limited to whatever friendly base you can find and involves deploying personal on foreign soil, it also has limited visible impact but can be Seen asa major upping of any geopolitical game. A carrier with F35bs is a message without ambiguity without all the issues of a foreign soil deployment and does not nessisarly up the anti to much ( it can sail away the next day).

        I know a lot of people think we can have a small fleet of F35b inside of a fleet of F35As but what happened with the Harrier fleet should be a lesson. Let’s keep it simple and cost effective witha nice purple fleet of F35bs that can fill our lovely Queen Elizabeth to the gunwales and moved exactly when and where they need to be as required by HMG without having to ask any other nation for permission.

        • Hi Jonathan, You do make some good points, but I think you’re actually making an argument for the QE class carrier. To me, you’re favouring the sole selection of the F-35B simply to justify a role for Lizzie & Taffy. But aircraft-carriers are only a means to an end, delivering air-power in the pursuit of UK interests.

          Despite the difficulties “on paper” you list in using overseas airbases, these haven’t been a factor in the successful deployment of UK air-power during the last 30 years. Not in Gulf War 1 & 2, not in Bosnia, or Kosovo, or Afghanistan – or even over North Africa in 2011. We’re blessed with agile and skilful diplomats, and have a long diplomatic world-wide reach – basing rights has presented few difficulties. And we can generate more strike power from an airfield, than a carrier.

          I disagree about the value of the QE class in a coalition with the Americans, whatever the US Navy may whisper in the ear of the First Sea Lord, it’s the political clout we wield in Washington through having “boots-on-the ground” that counts, not another few dozen strike aircraft somewhere far over the horizon.

          Ironically, just as the carriers finally enter service, the Russia bear has roused itself once again, and it seems likely that British forces may need to be reconfigured from the expeditionary or “global” role envisaged back in 1998, to supporting our NATO allies once again in central and eastern Europe. In that scenario, the carrier-force will have limited utility.

          I’m a supporter of aircraft-carriers, and incredibly proud of the QE class – but there is a danger that these vessels are already unbalancing a defence budget of less than 2% of GDP. As many have feared, arguments are being made for a huge investment in the wrong aircraft, simply as a means of justifying the carrier programme.

          • In fairness and what is often forgotten is the F35B is a regeneration of our carrier (harrier) capability.

            The replacement for Tornado could be something entirely different.

            There are 3 distinct fleets being discussed. Fleet Air Arm, Fighters and Bombers.

            It is entirely reasonable to expect 3 different classes of aircraft for these 3 services, but probably best to standardise on 2 manned and 1 unmanned platform that can be sent into very high threat areas (and in my example under the control of an F35 that is providing all the directives, situational awareness and electronic jamming from a standoff position).

      • (Chris H) Alan – I have never challenged why we bought the F-35 as I believe it to be the right choice as I have listed way above here. My question was not about the F-35 per se but why we would buy the F-35A as well as the ‘B’.

        And given we would be in coalition with the Americans either they would use their superior ‘A’ numbers in the suppression phase (or withe USMC and UK ‘B’ aircraft) while the more capable and superior Typhoons (and others) would follow up with the heavy weaponry,

        • Morning
          So you are advocating letting the US deploy first and the the U.K. and USMC (one a country, one an arm of a military) for up?
          I don’t think that would wash.
          We are talking about an additional 2 sqns here, that’s all.

          • (Chris H) lee – Please don’t misrepresent what was written. I clearly said we would be in coalition and in a coalition each member would have a part to play bringing what they do best. And so I said ‘UK F-35Bs’ rather than ‘FAA F-35Bs’ – A bit picky that ….?

            The USAF have invested heavily in the F-35A to replace various ageing aircraft in their fleet and add capability. The RAF has made a different investment in the Typhoon as it needs to replace one aircraft and does not have the budget of the USAF. Therefore it is clearly the case the USAF will have vastly more stealth and suppression capability than RAF Typhoons or French Rafales or whatever.

            The point I was making about USMC F-35Bs is that they are already very closely linked to FAA / RAF F-35B operations (as will be seen later this Summer on QE) and it is logical in an offensive operation they will operate together. And I did say ‘either’ USAF F-35As ‘or’ USMC and UK F-35Bs. For which read FAA and RAF F-35Bs.

            Adding ‘an additional 2 squadrons’ of F-35As is a mightily expensive decision and if we had that much spare cash I can think of better and more relevant ways to spend it. Like more Typhoons and preserving UK jobs where we can. We have to accept that the UK will never be able to match the USA in military spending either as a % of GDP or in Per Capita terms. I doubt we will ever mount a major solo aggressive campaign like the Falklands again and we will operate as part of coalitions and defence agreements like NATO and even Pacific Rim agreements.

  18. With all this constant chatter over one acquisition by the UK, it’s hardly a surprise that your country is steadily and assuredly sliding down the scale. You are now at 6/7 in the world military league table! What are you up to my British friends?

  19. The only logical purchase of the A variant for the UK would be if the F-35 numbers increased to replace the Typhoon. Once the UK gets to like 80-90 B’s there would be no point to a new variant.

  20. I wonder if this month will bear fruit and see a technology demonstrator of the EJ2X0 as mentioned in the link below.

    With combined thrust vectoring and the additional power, an adapted version of the Eurofighter for the QE class carriers might just be possible?

    The inclusion of a Rudder/Speed Brake (RSB) Actuator System like the one found on the space shuttle plus, thrust vectoring could potentionally contribute to slowing the aircraft sufficenly for landing, and the additional power for takeoff?

    Just throwing in a curve ball to the discussion!

    Happy Easter.

  21. Morning all
    Happy easter and all that
    Whilst I hate doing armchair general numbers here goes for discussion:
    Royal Navy
    3 x F-35B Sqns
    Royal Air Force (happy birthday)
    1 x F-35B Sqn
    2 x F-35A Sqns
    5 x Typhoon Sqns (3 AD and 2 Strike)
    2 x Reaper Sqn
    96 F-35B purchased
    48 F-35A purchases

    AESA purchased for Typhoon
    SPEAR 3 to include anti ship

    Each service gets 3 Sqns of F-35.
    Enough B models to sustain 24 a/c per carrier and just enough to surge to 36 in times of all out war.
    RAF gets its 8 FJ sqns and two Reaper Sqns.

    Replace E-3 with WedgeTail
    Replace Sentinel with 737 framed equivalent
    Move WatchKeeper to RAF ORBAT
    Add Boom to at least 5 A330
    Increase P-8 from 9 to 12 and virtualise fleet with US
    Remove all Hawk T1A from ORBAT and replace with T2

    Orders for BAE
    15% of all F-35
    Hawk T2

    Hope the above creates a bit of debate

    • Lee I would jump at that list.

      Considering the RAF has but 8 Fast Jet Squadrons, excluding reserve and trials units a jump to 11 total with 3 FAA squadrons included is surely too much to hope for.

      I know CAS has suggested we could get to 9, with 5 Typhoon and 4 F35 in time once extra F35 arrive and the 2 extra Typhoon units stand down.

      I see your 2 extra squadrons are the A varients you were discussing earlier.

      Would need an uplift finding the manpower for the 3 NAS as well.

      Easiest and most obvious surely is additional T2 for Reds and 100 Squadron.

      Increase in P8 an obvious move, as is commonality on airframe types in the ISTAR fleet.

      AESA and Spear ASM capability welcome additions.

      With the hoped for uplift in spending is this even possible?

      Would need serious uplift in manpower first, and the RAF training pipeline has been massively reduced.

      • Afternoon
        Manpower would be attracted by the toys on offer, an uplift in manpower is desperately overdue.
        T2 for the Reds should be a must now, reduce the support burden and allow easier transition for pilots and crews going through the Sqn.
        100 Sqn I would like to take a bit of time to think in that one so will get back to you.
        Uplift in spending isn’t as great as you think over the purchasing lifecycle. U.K. would still be purchasing about 150 F-35 which is budgeted for but now slightly cheaper if A model is purchased.
        P-8 is bought over a longer period and would help NATO and US who could help with costs (NATO P-8 fleet out of Lossiemouth for example).
        As you rightly point out though, manpower needs to be increased – that is the challenge

    • (Chris H) Lee – Happy to discuss and Happy Easter Sir
      Without debating each item I would just focus on two issues I have with your suggestions.
      * Adding ‘Booms’ to 5 Voyagers:
      Basically ‘why?’. We currently have some 17 aircraft that do not use ‘Probe & Drogue’ refuelling. All are long range aircraft – AWACS, C-17 and Rivet Joint – so have reduced need for refuelling. I am advised that RJ requires USAF refuelling due to a short runway at Waddington. Maybe the answer is there on the tarmac? So why limit where 5 of our 14 (total) Voyagers can operate if they are to support these other aircraft at a ratio of some 3 to 1? And as for the 9 Poseidon aircraft as none of ours have been builtt yet and Boeing already have refuelling systems from the forward roof I cannot believe it would be beyond their capability to add an A400M style ‘Probe’ coupled into or in place of the ‘Boom’ receptacle.

      * F-35A:
      Again I ask ‘Why?’
      They add nothing in the Suppression, sensor and stealth role that we already have within our F-35B fleets (RAF + FAA). The ‘B’ can be released from a carrier or a land base unlike the ‘A’ giving us attack flexibility. In addition the ‘A’ is nowhere near the capability of the later Typhoons in A2A, BVR, IRST, QRA, Multi-role, switch role, Supercruise, ferry and combat range and weapon delivery capabilities. And our ‘Bs’ can launch from a Typhoon onto targets observed under stealth. And of course once you add a pylon to an F-35 its as visible in radar terms as a Typhoon. And lastly the ‘A’ requires ‘Boom’ refuelling so we would have to equip every Voyager at huge cost unless a unique ‘UK – 35A’ was created for us at no doubt huge cost as well.

      Its not a ‘list’ issue as such but you seem unaware that Typhoon already has the CAPTOR Mechanical Scan Radar the best performing type of its class. While not AESA the Radar provides Air-to-Air and Air-to-Surface features. It has excellent ECCM protection features in a jamming scenario for sidelobe nulling, interference blanking and jammer classification. Typhoon has already integrated CAPTOR – E AESA radar possibly the best there is which can be retro-fitted to all Typhoons as needed as well as fitted on production line.

      • Hi Chris
        The above needs to be given the detailed answer it deserves so will respond tomorrow when I am at my computer and not on my phone.
        Many thanks for the response and appreciate the passion in the Typhoon platform – an aircraft that I really do think is one of the best out there

      • Morning
        Hope the small Easter break was enjoyable.
        Why only 5 boom’s?
        Budgets, commercials and roles.
        5 of the 9 (not including the 5 military available commercially used aircraft) gives the RAF flexibility in what it needs and gives any USAF aircraft operating in the UK the ability to fuel from RAF tanker aircraft. Gone are the days were we operate fully independently and that includes air operations over the UK and North Sea. Nordic and North European Nation states are choosing F-35 and do not have the ability to afford tankers. The RAF in the majority of cases provided those services via the Tri-Star and VC-10 fleets. I would prefer all 9 but 5 is cheaper than 9 – having 5 always leaves 1 available whilst the other aircraft are on alternate tasking. , As you state also, we do not need all 9 converted as you state our aircraft still utilise the drogue technique. The US will not add the probe to the P-8, it makes no viable sense to them, or us for that matter. The whole idea of purchasing the P-8 is so the fleet can be virtualised, we align to their systems (minus crypto) including logistics and servicing. We do not want 9 “modified aircraft” that need special maintenance .
        Cost – They are cheaper to purchase and cheaper to maintain
        Scope – The RAF would like to deliver what it is scoped to utilising the best manpower and equipment for the job. From SEAD to interdiction (all good air power terms), things that the F-35A was designed for at the outset. From that design they modified it, twice, once for the USN (stronger undercarriage and folding wings) and the USMC (V/STOL). If the RN were to chose again I would suggest they would have picked the F-35C but politics put paid to that. With the F-35B, whilst the aircraft is very good, it is restricted in what it can do and those restrictions are highlighted in speed, range and carriage of ordinance to effect the mission.
        You also mention some of the things Typhoon should soon be able to do:
        Supercruise – not delivered yet
        FAST Pacts – piping and “clips” installed on aircraft, not delivered yet
        Range – AAR is the multiplier
        You mention Boom refuelling – as mentioned above, I believe the RAF should add this as a capability to their Voyager fleet as most other air forces who have purchased the product have done.
        CAPTOR – Stretching 90’s technology to the absolute limit, so in its class (class of the 90’s) by far and away the best mechanically scanned radar out there. Blue Vixen (1st generation AESA) however, if you speak to FA2 pilots will give it a great run for its money. CAPTOR is mechanically driven, thats 90kg of weight that could be used for something else. It is also a mechanical bit of kit, something else that can go wrong. I am looking forward to AESA on Typhoon but until it is in the aircraft it doesn’t exist, much like the METEOR that was ready to go in 2014. As an air to air platform with CAPTOR E, METEOR, ASRAAM, Link 16, IRST, super cruise and FAST I cannot see anything that can get close to it and that includes F-22 (no one has got anything like METEOR – once its found you reach between your legs and pull). With STORM SHADOW it will make a great stand off aircraft.
        F-35A, an aircraft specifically designed with stealth in mind, to approach the target and suppress the enemy and then leave the area. The RAF will not use it as a A2A aircraft, why should it – it has the best one on the market today.
        $85M – that is a sign of intent, something the RAF cannot and should not ignore.

        The MoD will get its 138+ F-35 but now at a price it can better afford. This is not going to happen overnight but you can see the RAF getting ready for this (Just see the press with regards to Tornado this weekend).
        The USAF and Lockheed will be lobbying hard – imagine a joint operating base in the UK with both USAF and RAF personnel, working together generating military capability. The US reduces it UK footprint but not its combat effect by co-locating at Cottesmore or Marham or Wittering. With booms fitted to the Voyager fleet that interoperability only increases.
        We have to accept that if we want to continue as a force to be reckoned with we are going to have to start thinking local to act global and if that means innovative ways to generate military effect then that is what we are going to have to do.

  22. Evening all ,belated Happy Easter to you as well,ive been thinking about another issue that would need consideration.We all know RAF Marham is being upgraded to receive the first F35b,s later on this year.If we do indeed get the promised 138 Aircraft where exactly would they all go ? How many could be based at RAF Marham in the instance of both Carriers being in port ? Surely it would make sense to spread such expensive assets to at least two bases especially in the current political climate.We have lost a few suitable bases in the defence drawdown ,I would be interested in any ideas on which RAF base would be the most suitable to house future F35b Squadrons.Purely a wild guess but the obvious ones to me are RAF Leeming or RAF Wittering.

    • IMO ideally those which have / had HAS complexes with associated Storage areas and hardened infrastructure, built in Cold War to operate remotely from the rest of the station if necessary, including CBRN conditions. So –

      Boscombe Down. ATEC between MoD / QinetiQ. HAS mostly disused I believe. Designated QRA dispersal airfield post 9 /11. HAS were built for F111 during Cold War. Sting would probably do his nut though!

      Wattisham. 2 x HAS Complex for Phantoms. Now 2 AAC Apache regiments. Talk of AAC vacating site so could this station be refurbished for fixed wing aircraft again. I believe the runway is / was useable?

      Honington. 2 x HAS / High security SSA for Nukes on north side. RAF Regiment depot so full? Don’t know if runway operational? Had GR1’s in Cold War.

      Leeming. 2 or 3 HAS / Had 3 x F3 Squadrons at one time. Active station with 100 Sqn, 90 SU and other bits. Should be space here?

      Leuchars. 2 x HAS / Recently lost to Army. RSDG and 2 REME plus RMP moving in or already in so maybe full? Runway was in use for UAS still?

      Coningsby. Current QRA station with Typhoon and 2 x HAS sites full up I think. Flight line has 29R and 41R Squadrons.

      RAF Alconbury is now mostly a car park. And RAF Upper Heyford too, both had HAS sites.

      RAF Wittering has never had any HAS complexes and the UAS are now being concentrated there. Its sister station RAF Cottesemore is now Kendrew Barracks. Again no HAS but both had the required SA for weaponry.

      RAF Lossimouth and RAF Coningsby I believe are taking an extra Typhoon unit each already.

      I recall RAF Stornoway as a dispersal airfield had HAS installed maybe reopen that!

      • I recall RAF St Mawgan also has a HAS complex? Maybe move the FAA there and use Marham solely for the RAF. Would need major update as now a civil airport.

        • Indeed Daniele RAF St Mawgan is now a civilian Airport,thanks for your information regards the other sites.In pure geography terms our air defences have always been orientated along the East Coast from the Shetlands down to the English Channel,ive always thought that there is a gaping hole in the Southwest area but if there is no obvious threat expected in that direction that would explain why,hopefully this will not change in the future.

          • The East side and runway are Newquay airport, over the west side is still an MoD site conducting E&E amongst other things.

            RNAS Yeovilton, RNAS Culdrose and MoD Boscombe down were designated QRA forward deployed locations for any 9 /11 style threats coming from the South West where a definite threat had already been identified by intelligence.

            As for F35B, who knows? I recall there were questions over its noise levels compared to other jets?

            Marham until a few years ago had 4 squadrons of GR4 so could take more than the 617 and 809 Squadrons already announced. Maybe somewhere nearby to ease logistics?

  23. So much discussion over one aircraft acquisition. No wonder the UK has slid down the scale and now is at 6/7 lower than my native France!

    • Pierre – one can only admire the ability of France to dig its heels in and design,develope and manufacture Aircraft of its own ,sometimes at the detriment of the projects it has often left to go its own way (MRCA +Eurofighter) it gives new meaning to political willpower I’m sure,but as you can imagine the F35 is a massive commitment for many western nations not just the UK.This hopefully will prove to be a big game changer for Air combat operations,may I ask what direction France will take beyond Rafale ? ( I understand you have a UAV project or projects )

    • But you ain’t in 5 eyes though are you?

      So rankings very much depend on ones interpretation monsieur.

  24. Yes, in collaboration with Germany, to build a Rafale and Typhoon replacement and Dassault nEUROn UCAV. The roadmap is to be agreed later 2018. There are also joint projects for land army forces as well.

    • Evening
      You seem to have a lot of time on your hands at the moment with most of your country’s transport infrastructure on strike.
      Many thanks for the post though. We look forward to your continued Franco-German defence projects, they have a track record of delivering resounding success, none really spring to mind though, got to dash train to catch!

    • Pierre – a joint venture between France and Germany sounds interesting and exiting for a Typhoon/Rafale replacement but as history has proved once all the responsibilities and workshare problems have been sorted out and a design is ready for production I would imagine that most of our F35’s would already be in service – technology is moving very quick today but unfortunately joint military Aircraft projects do not !


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