The UK parliament’s Defence Select Committee was told that the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) set out plans for the UK to buy 138 F-35B Lightning IIs. As of May 1, 2023, the UK had taken delivered of 31 F-35Bs, with a total of 48 due to be delivered by the end of 2025 as part of an initial Tranche 1 order.
The UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) has confirmed its intention to place a further Tranche 2 order for 27 additional aircraft, bringing the total fleet size to 74. There remains ambiguity about plans for the F-35 fleet in terms of its eventual size, operational deployment, and attribution.
In its report, the Defence Select Committee said: “Force growth rate of the UK’s F-35 fleet has so far been slower than planned. The MOD told us that current difficulties are primarily due to the original number of aircraft maintainer posts being insufficient in the face of ‘programme realities’ such as annual leave, training and professional development.