The UK has decided to bolster the RAF’s air defence as the government is set to nearly triple the size of its fighter jet fleet.
According to the UK Defence Journal (UKDJ), the government is set to purchase 138 of the Lockheed F-35B fighter jets in total. This is up from the 48 originally slated for purchase before the beginning of Russia’s illegal war with Ukraine.
In a recent exchange in Parliament, the Minister of State at the Ministry of Defence James Cartlidge said: “All Partner Nations place orders for F-35 through the Joint Program Office in low-rate initial production Lots.
“The average time between the multi-national orders being placed for each Lot and deliveries to customer nations is between two to four years.
“For details of United Kingdom delivery timescales from Lot 3 to Lot 14, I refer to the right hon. Member to the answer that Baroness Goldie gave to the Noble Lord, Lord Moonie on 4 November 2019 to Question HL520, which remains extant.
“The multi-national order for low-rate initial production Lots 15-17 was placed in early 2023, which set delivery timescales of a further thirteen UK F-35B aircraft out to 2025.
“The UK remains committed to 138 aircraft through the life of the programme. However, no contracts have been placed by any nation beyond production Lot 17.
“Precise details of delivery timescales for subsequent production Lots will be taken at the appropriate time, as part of the wider multi-national orders. This ensures the most appropriate capability and the best value for money.”
The UKDJ said a paper referred to an intention by the UK to “increase the fleet size beyond the 48 F-35Bs already ordered”.
The speculation over the number of new F-35s comes as fears about World War 3 continue to swirl after tensions escalated in the Middle East. Last year, Defence Secretary Grant Shapps signed a deal with Japan and Italy to develop new supersonic jets to future-proof the UK’s RAF with up-to-date aircraft.
At the time of the signing, the Defence Secretary said: “Our world-leading combat aircraft programme aims to be crucial to global security and we continue to make hugely positive progress toward delivery of the new jets to our respective air forces in 2035.
“The UK-based headquarters will also see us make important decisions collaboratively and at pace, working with our close partners Italy and Japan, and our impressive defence industries, to deliver an outstanding aircraft.”