UK Secures Funding for Operation of 74 F-35 Jets

UK Secures Funding for Operation of 74 F-35 Jets

The United Kingdom has announced specific funding to support the operation of 74 F-35 jets, marking a significant step in bolstering the country’s defense capabilities. James Cartlidge, Minister of State for Defence Procurement, confirmed this development in communication with Jeremy Quin MP, Chair of the House of Commons Defence Committee.

Capability Enhancement

The UK’s defense strategy includes the successful establishment of 809NAS in December 2023, with further force growth initiatives planned until December 2025. This growth aims to enhance the capabilities of frontline squadrons, supported by increased recruitment in engineering roles across the Royal Navy (RN) and Royal Air Force (RAF).

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Challenges and Delays

While progress has been steady, Lockheed Martin’s suspension of aircraft release post-production due to software instability has resulted in short-term delays in UK aircraft deliveries. However, these delays are not expected to impact the scheduled declaration of Full Operational Capability (FOC) by the end of 2025.

Future Capabilities

Negotiations with the Joint Program Office (JPO) for the procurement of a further 27 F-35 aircraft, known as ‘Tranche 2,’ are progressing well. This procurement phase is anticipated to complete the internal approvals process in summer 2024, paving the way to deepen Carrier Enabled Power Projection capability and expand the UK fleet to 74 aircraft. The additional aircraft will enable the creation of a third frontline squadron by 2033.

Commitment to F-35 Programme

The UK reaffirms its commitment to procure 138 F-35B aircraft as initially planned. While contracts beyond production Lot 17 are yet to be placed, the UK remains dedicated to acquiring the designated number of aircraft throughout the program’s lifecycle.

The UK’s allocation of funding and commitment to the F-35 programme underscore its strategic focus on enhancing air defense capabilities and maintaining a robust frontline squadron strength.

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