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UK to seek additional F-35 acquisition phases

The UK has touted the prospect of additional procurement batches of the F-35 as it looks to fulfil its 138-aircraft programme of record. (Crown copyright)

The UK government has said that the Ministry of Defence (MoD) will seek additional acquisition phases for the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning combat aircraft, beyond the phase currently contracted and the one now in negotiation.

The Earl of Minto Gilbert Timothy George Lariston Elliot-Murray-Kynynmound, minister of state at the MoD, said in early April that approval for further procurement tranches of the F-35 will be sought as the UK moves towards its planned 138-aircraft buy over the life of the programme.

“Our plan remains to procure 138 aircraft through the life of the programme. This procurement is phased; our first acquisition phase of 48 aircraft is under way at present, with the second phase consisting of a further 27 aircraft now progressing through the approvals process, which will form the basis of our third front-line Lightning squadron with deliveries expected to continue into 2033. The MoD will seek approval for further acquisition phases at the appropriate time,” the minister said.

The UK has received 35 of the 48 short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) F-35B aircraft it acquired under its first procurement tranche. Of these, one was lost in an accident in 2021 leaving 34 now in service. With four residing with the Royal Air Force's (RAF's) 17 Test and Evaluation Squadron (TES) at Edwards Air Force Base in California, there are 30 operational aircraft fielded by 617 ‘Dambusters' Squadron and 809 Naval Air Squadron ‘Immortals' at RAF Marham in Norfolk. Deliveries of this first tranche are due to run through to the end of 2025.

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