F-35 Joint Strike Fighter
The UK government is planning to spend £12bln [$18 bln] on 138 F-35 fighter jets, as part of a new defense strategy it announced on 23 November 2015. Chancellor George Osborne told the BBC that as a result of the government's new Strategic Defense and Security Review, by 2023 the UK will have 24 F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft, and two new aircraft carriers.
The Royal Air Force and Royal Navy planned to operate 138 F-35B short takeoff/vertical landing aircraft, and the first two were delivered to the U.K. in 2012. These aircraft support training at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., where British pilots and maintainers are embedded with the U.S. Marine Corps and their fleet of F-35Bs. The third U.K. F-35 would be delivered to Eglin in 2013.
The decision on the overall number of aircraft will not be made until the next Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) in 2015. The original planning assumption for up to 140 aircraft is not expected to be realised. Defence Secretary Philip Hammond confirmed in July 2012 the UK will order 48 aircraft (including the four test aircraft) with further numbers to be confirmed in the 2015 SDSR. The Government attracted criticism for its decision in 2010 to select the the F-35C CTOL over the F-35B VSTOL variant originally chosen by the previous Government, and again for reverting back to the original F-35B VSTOL choice two years later. The Ministry of Defence acted quickly once it realized, in early 2012, the extent to which its 2010 decision to procure the carrier variant of the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) had been based on immature data and flawed assumptions. In May 2012, the Department announced that it was reverting to procuring the short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) variant of the fighter. This produced a 3 year delay (from 2020 to 2023) to the Departmentís planned carrier variant option delivery, arising between the 2010 and 2012 decisions. The decision taken in May 2012 to use the STOVL variant rather than the Carrier variant will not affect the number of aircraft to be deployed on the Carrier. Twelve aircraft will be routinely on board the carriers with a potential surge to 36 aircraft if required.
The United Kingdom has played integral role on the Joint Strike Fighter since the programís earliest days. Even before a final aircraft concept was chosen, British engineers and test pilots were making their mark on what would become a revolutionary capability. Under the desert sky at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., British test pilot left onlookers awestruck as he took the X-35B prototype out for its first flight on June 23, 2001.
A mere four months later, after witnessing the aircraftís impressive performance, U.S. and U.K. defense officials announced Lockheed Martinís concept would go on to become the Joint Strike Fighter. In the years since, the F-35 has continued to evolve. Itís advanced stealth, sensor fusion, exceptional maneuverability, unmatched interoperability, and intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance capabilities will provide the U.K. with a tactical airpower advantage for decades to come.
As the programís only Level 1 partner, the United Kingdom has garnered tremendous economic benefits from the F-35. British industry will build 15 percent of each of the more than 3,000 planned F-35s, generating significant export revenue and GDP growth. The program is projected to create and support more than 24,000 jobs across every region of the United Kingdom.
As of May 2013 Britain was buying 48 new F35 jump jet Joint Strike Fighters - or Lightning IIs - but may rethink plans for a further 90. The aircraft already on order will serve the new Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier, which is under construction and due to see the first of the Lightning IIs fly from its deck in 2018, ahead of operational service in 2020-23. But the Defence Secretary Philip Hammond told Sky News he could not commit to a further 90 planes which were originally proposed as they were dependent on "politics, money and the state of the world." He also said it was "dependent on what is not yet clearly known, what the mix between manned fighter jets and unmanned aircraft is going to be."
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