Funding for second tranche of UK F-35B fighters “held centrally”

The UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) looks to have partially committed to the acquisition of a second tranche of F-35B Lightning II stealth fighters and additional A400M tactical transport aircraft, following the publication on February 21 of the latest iteration of the Defence Equipment Plan.

The commitments come as part of an apparent uptick in spending on platform acquisition and upgrades across all military domains. In November 2020, the UK announced an increase in defence spending over four years of £16.5bn above the previous planning assumption of 0.5% real growth, however changes will now see that beyond the four years of the original Treasury settlement the remaining six years will see a further £17.7bn increase in spending.

UK -F-35B
The UK is on the record to buy a minimum of 48 F-35Bs, with the intention to potentially acquire 138 airframes over the lifetime of the programme. UK MOD/Crown copyright

In addition, the MOD stated that the Equipment Plan would see spending of £238bn on equipment procurement and support, an increase of £48bn from the previous year’s report. The plan was also assessed to have £4.3bn “headroom” over the ten-year cycle, compared to a shortfall of £7.3bn in the previous report.

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