Nov 25, 2017
UK military chief ‘sympathetic’ to cut in F-35 fighter jet order
One of the UK’s most senior military chiefs has suggested that Britain may cut the number of F-35 combat jets it buys in the future as pressure grows on its defence budget.
Despite a commitment to buy 138 F-35B Lightning II fighter jets from the US manufacturer Lockheed Martin, Lieutenant General Mark Poffley, deputy chief of the UK defence staff, told MPs on Tuesday that he was “sympathetic” to the idea that the overall number could eventually fall.
“That’s the reality of the world we are living in,” added Lt Gn Poffley.
Earlier Stephen Lovegrove, the most senior civil servant at the Ministry of Defence, revealed that the cost of an initial tranche of 48 F-35s could rise from £9.1bn in 2025 to £13bn in 2048.
The MoD said the extra £4bn was to cover the “whole life costs” of the planes including support costs, training and maintenance. It insisted that the UK was still committed to buying its full quota. “Our plan to buy 138 F-35 jets over the life of the programme has not changed, with only the US planning to buy more aircraft,” it said.
The F-35 jets will provide the main strike force for Britain’s two new aircraft carriers, the first of which, HMS Queen Elizabeth, is due to be officially commissioned into the Royal Navy on December 7.