LONDON --- Britain could buy only half its target of 138 F-35 Lightning II fighter jets, according to sources close to the government’s defence review.
The UK has agreed to buy 48 of the stealth multirole jets by the end of 2025 for £9.1 billion. It is the most expensive weapons system in military history.
Britain has ordered the short take-off and vertical landing variant of the jet, which is designed to fly from aircraft carriers. The Royal Navy’s Queen Elizabeth-class carriers are expected to deploy with between 12 and 36 F-35s on board, depending on the operation.
A wider British aspiration to buy 138 of the aircraft over the lifespan of the US-led programme is seen as unlikely to be fulfilled, defence sources said.
The 138 figure was confirmed as an ambition in the UK defence review in 2015, but the Commons defence committee noted later that this decision was taken “following some hesitation”. Britain is not contractually obliged to buy any more than 48.
It is understood that as part of the foreign policy, defence and security integrated review due to conclude in November, military chiefs have discussed the figure of 70 F-35s as a credible minimum total order. (end of excerpt)
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