London shuffles to halve its order for US F-35s

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London shuffles to halve its order for US F-35s
© CC BY-SA 2.0 / Falcon® Photography / F-35 Gear Up

British authorities, who planned to buy 138 American F-35 fighters, may give up half of these aircraft in favour of developing their own fighter jet.

Although the United Kingdom planned to buy 138 F-35 fighters from the US in 2015, it is obliged to purchase only 48 aircraft by the end of 2025 under the signed contract, valued at 9.1 billion pounds – about $ 12.1 billion. These fighters are expected to be used on the British Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carrier.

According to the sources, London could finally stop at 70 F-35 fighters – 60 operational and 10 reserves in the event of a failure or damage – that is, almost double less than initially scheduled.

Instead of acquiring American fighters, the United Kingdom plans to bet on the development of its own aircraft. This is the British Tempest project to create a fighter plane capable of not only flying in unmanned mode but also of controlling a group of escort drones.

Investing in the development of its own aircraft of the future, the UK could create more jobs, but such an aircraft is unlikely to be as successful as the F-35, warns Justin Bronk, a researcher at the Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies and combat aviation expert.

The Tempest is reported to go into mass production by 2035.

In July, The Telegraph newspaper wrote about a scandal in the British Air Force for wasting money on F-35As that cannot operate from the UK’s two Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers.