Nov 6, 2015
UK considering retaining early model Typhoons to maintain fighter numbers
Speaking in the House of Commons on 3 November, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence, Philip Dunne, said that the Ministry of Defence (MoD) is currently reviewing its earlier decision to retire the 53 Tranche 1 Typhoons in 2018. While he said that this work is being done in anticipation of the upcoming Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR), he declined to be drawn on when a decision might be announced.
"The Ministry of Defence is reviewing the potential utility of all its current platforms, including its fleet of Tranche 1 Typhoon aircraft, as part of the ongoing Strategic Defence and Security Review. Where there is clear merit in extending the life of existing equipment in terms of both military utility and value-for-money, the opportunity to do so will be considered in the context of the wider review. It is therefore not appropriate to anticipate decisions on the Typhoon Tranche 1, or other capabilities, that have not yet been made," he said.
The minister's comments come on the back of a government disclosure in July that the UK's frontline fast-jet force is set to fall to its lowest numerical strength just ahead of the turn of the decade, with the almost simultaneous retirement of both the Panavia Tornado GR.4 and Tranche 1 Eurofighter Typhoon fleets in 2019.
The RAF currently fields 192 frontline combat aircraft, made up of 87 Tornados; 53 Tranche 1 Typhoons; and 52 Tranche 2 and Tranche 3A Typhoons (deliveries of which are ongoing). Although all 40 Tranche 3A Typhoons should be with the RAF by 2019 and deliveries of the Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter will have begun, under current plans the UK will have just 127 frontline combat jets in 2019 - the lowest number since the RAF was formed more than a century earlier.