The United Kingdom Armed Forces brace themselves for the government’s next defense review, signs point to significant cuts to the Royal Air Force and the British Army, including a potential reduction of the planned F-35B stealth fighter fleet by around two-thirds.
The UK is likely only to purchase 48 F-35B jets, down from 138, The Sunday Times says.
“An order for 90 more F-35 Lightning combat jets is to be canceled in favor 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,” the article appeared on the British newspaper states.
The MoD’s Permanent Secretary Sir Stephen Lovegrove said whilst speaking to the Public Accounts Committee: “Things change in the course of these very long-term programmes. Different capabilities come along that render things that you have yet to buy possibly obsolete or perhaps you need fewer of them or the threats change.”
According to the UK Defence Journal, the final details of this will be revealed on Mar. 16, 2021 in the ‘Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy’ (shortened in Integrated Review) which is effectively a defence review.
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“General Sir Nick Carter has been central to setting the vision for our future armed forces. The Prime Minister has asked General Carter to remain in post to ensure continuity and stability while the conclusions of the Integrated Review are implemented following the £24.1-billion settlement for defence announced last year.
“The Integrated Review will be published on 16 of March and the Defence Command Paper will be published on 22 of March. The selection of General Carter’s successor as Chief of the Defence Staff will begin in the autumn,” the Ministry of Defence said in an announcement.
The Integrated Review was described as the largest review of its kind since the Cold War by Boris Johnson.
So far, the UK has ordered 48 F-35Bs, all of which are set to be delivered by 2025.
The Royal Air Force and Royal Navy plan to operate 138 F-35B short takeoff/vertical landing aircraft. Their training took place at MCAS Beaufort, South Carolina, where British pilots and maintainers were embedded with the US Marine Corps and their fleet of F-35Bs. The first F-35 squadron, 617 Sqn ‘Dambusters’, arrived at RAF Marham with first four aircraft in June 2018.
By 2025, the current fleet would allow for 24 jets to be deployed between each of the UK’s new Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft – however, the UK at current only plans to deploy one aircraft carrier at a time. The UK’s F-35 fleet will be split between two operational squadrons and one training squadron.
Tempest is the joint UK, Italian and Swedish programme to develop a family of aerial systems, including a crewed fighter jet that will replace the Royal Air Force’s (RAF) Eurofighter Typhoons from 2035 onwards.