- Aug 14, 2009
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"U.K. To Buy 138 F-35s, Nine P-8 Poseidons"
by Tony Osbourne
November 23, 2015
by Tony Osbourne
November 23, 2015
ABERDEEN, Scotland – The U.K. will commit to buying its full complement of 138 Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighters and also order a fleet of nine Boeing P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft as part of a £12 billion ($18 billion) increase in spending on defense equipment over the next decade.
The plans, to be formally unveiled later Nov. 23 with the publication of the U.K.’s Strategic Defense and Security Review (SDSR), will also extend the service life of the Eurofighter Typhoon fleet from its current out-of-service date of 2030 to 2040.
Meanwhile, a further two front-line squadrons will be formed by retaining Tranche 1 aircraft that were due to retire in the next 2-3 years. The government has also pledged to fit Tranche 3 aircraft with the active electronically scanned array radar currently in development.
Ministers say the spending increase is part of a process of building up the U.K.’s defenses at a time of heightened concern over the threat of terrorism, most notably the recent terror attacks in Paris.
In a Nov. 22 interview on U.K. television, Chancellor George Osborne said the country would accelerate its program of bringing the F-35 into service for the carrier strike role by having 24 aircraft ready for use on the U.K.’s new Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers by 2023.
“We are going to step up the aircraft carrier punch of the United Kingdom. We are going to make sure that when these aircraft carriers are available they are going to have planes that can fly from them in force,” Osborne said.
The U.K. has already signed up to purchase 14 F-35s over the next five years, on top of the three already in service and the fourth due to be delivered late this year. The U.K. ordered six more F-35Bs in early November.
Until now, U.K. ministers had only confirmed plans to purchase 48 F-35s.
It is unclear whether the 138 aircraft will be made up of STOVL-model F-35Bs. But it seems likely the U.K. may now also look at the land-based F-35A.
In an editorial for London’s Daily Telegraph newspaper, Prime Minister David Cameron said the U.K. was investing in a new generation of high-altitude surveillance drones, likely to be a reference to the Zephyr pseudo-satellite system. He also said the U.K. would make a “significant joint investment” with France in the development of an unmanned combat air vehicle, the subject of a current two-year long bilateral feasibility study.
That study is expected to recommend a decision on the aircraft’s platform in the coming weeks.
The order for nine P-8s comes just three weeks after reports in the Sunday Times said ministers had decided to cancel an order for the aircraft.
Somewhat embarrassingly, the order is being announced at the same time as French and Canadian maritime patrol aircraft have been deployed to Scotland to support the hunt for a probable Russian submarine, the third such operation in 12 months.
The U.K. has not been able to conduct fixed-wing anti-submarine operations for more than five years since the retirement of the Nimrod MR2 in 2009 and the cancellation of its replacement, the Nimrod MRA4, a year later. The P-8 will fill the gap left behind by the Nimrod, and also perform long-range search-and-rescue flights and overland surveillance.
Also on the shopping list is an enlarged fleet of 20 MQ-9 Reaper UAVs being ordered as part of the Protector program, formerly known as Scavenger.
While air power looks set to be the winner of this year’s review, the government has also announced plans to create two deployable army Strike Brigades, each with 5,500 personnel. These brigades will be able to “self-deploy thousands of kilometers, and with a much lower logistic footprint,” officials say.