The UK has reversed its Joint Strike Fighter variant selection change of late 2010, and will go back to its original plan of acquiring the Lockheed Martin F-35 in its short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) form. Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said the F35-C had hit development problems and it would be cheaper in the long term to order F35-B jump jets.
The step will remove the need to perform costly modifications to the Royal Navy’s two future Queen Elizabeth-class vessels in order to accommodate the larger F-35C. This had doubled to an estimated £2 billion ($3.2 billion) for one vessel, the Ministry of Defence says and was to cause a three-year delay until 2023.
Mr Hammond said delays to the F-35C Joint Strike Fighter programme meant they would have not been operational until 2023 – three years later than planned.
The UK will decide on how many F-35Bs to buy as part of its next SDSR review, which will report in 2015.
Lockheed plans to deliver the UK’s first of three aircraft being acquired in support of US-led initial operational test and evaluation of the F-35 during a ceremony at Eglin AFB, Florida, shortly after the Farnborough air show. STOVL aircraft BK-1 made its first flight from the company’s Fort Worth site in Texas during April.