The UK is likely to reduce the fifth-generation F-35 Lightning fighter II fleet of the Royal Air Force by about two-thirds. The decision may be taken at the UK government’s upcoming military review, which ironically will bring in a major funding increase for the first time since the end of the Cold War.
According to a report by The Times, the funds would be utilized for the creation of a new cyber warfare and space warfare domain, RAF’s Space Command, and new artificial intelligence research facilities. Details regarding why the Boris Johnson government wants to drastically cut the F-35 fleet are not yet known.
The plans to scale down the equipment also come along with an extensive modernization program, in which the infantry would focus more on the creation of more special operation units and focus on cutting-edge technologies.
The report said Prime Minister Boris Johnson has recently spoken of new unmanned aircraft and directed energy weapons as part of the new strategy. The military review reports will be unveiled later this month.
The British government had in November last year announced an additional budget of 16.5 billion pounds ($21.8 billion/ €18.4 billion) for the next four years, the biggest military spending boost since the Cold War.
The funding increase could be used to get new equipment even as the country’s armed forces are reducing obsolete equipment and gear.
The Royal Air Force’s and the Navy’s plan to buy 138 F-35B STOVL (Short Take-Off and Landing) types may not materialize now, with a reduction of approximately 90 planes, leaving just 48 with the British armed forces.
According to defense analysts, officials have said that 24 F-35Bs need to be embarked on the ship for a “credible complement” in the core Carrier Strike role. However, a force of 48 would not allow both [Queen Elizabeth-class] carriers to sail with the jets simultaneously, once training and maintenance, and not least all the force’s other frontline commitments, are taken into account. In fact, it might not even be sufficient for one carrier.
The funds could be efficiently used for the UK’s next-generation fighter jet program ‘Tempest’, being developed jointly by the British Royal Air Force and the Italian Air Force in conjunction with European defense company BAE systems.
The F-35 Lightning II fighter is considered the most advanced fighter in the world due to its advanced avionics, armament, stealth technology, and state-of-the-art features. However, the fact that the entire F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program has been plagued with problems is seen as a major drawback for the advanced fighter jet.