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UK to scale back F35 stealth fighter jets purchase

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
The Royal Navy initially expected to receive 138 F35Bs but it may eventually end up with only 70 at most

Barely a day after it was revealed that the UK military is considering relinquishing its entire tank and armored vehicle fleets it is being reported that Britain may significantly scale back on the purchase of the F35 stealth multirole combat aircraft.

Britain first put in an order for 138 F35s back in November 2015. But the Times (August 26) is reporting that Britain is now planning to buy only half of the original target.

— Lucy Fisher (@LOS_Fisher) August 26, 2020 ">http://

Excl: UK could descope F-35 programme and buy as few as half its target for 138 jets, say sources close to integrated review.

Military chiefs are understood to have discussed 70 jets as a minimum credible F-35 fleet. UK only committed to buy 48 so far.

— Lucy Fisher (@LOS_Fisher) August 26, 2020

According to current operational timelines, the UK will take possession of 48 F35s by the end of 2025 at a staggering cost of £9.1 billion.

The UK has ordered the F35B Lightening II, which is the short take-off and vertical landing variant of the jet. This choice is informed by the decision to incorporate the F35s into the Royal Navy and by extension to deploy them in aircraft carriers.   

The Royal Navy’s two aircraft carriers – HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales – are expected to potentially deploy with between 12 and 35 F35Bs, depending on the nature and scale of their missions.

The likelihood of the UK scaling back its acquirement of F35Bs is yet another blow to the government’s oft-delayed integrated foreign policy, defense and security review, which is now expected to be completed in November.


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