UK to Move Back to F-35B STOVL Fighter
May 14, 2012 8:00 AM
Conversion costs to modify carrier for the F-35C soared
The British government has changed its mind again on some of the F-35 Lightning II fighter jets that it intends to purchase. Unlike Canada, the British aren't considering delaying orders or reducing the number of jets they ordered this time around. Rather, the British government is now announcing that it will switch back to the F-35B short takeoff and vertical landing version of the fighter rather than the F-35C carrier-based version.
The F-35B STOVL fighter was originally the version that the British intended to purchase, but delays and fears of the program being canceled after the U.S. put the B variant on probation led to the British
deciding to use
the F-35C instead. Recent improvements to the program have led to the fighter being removed from probation, and its future is looking better.
According to British Defense Secretary Philip Hammond, the plan to purchase the carrier-based F-35 versions was killed due to what he calls an unacceptable cost. Delays in the plan to convert the carrier to handle the F-35C had also mounted. According to Hammond, an estimate to convert one British carrier had doubled from the original $1.6 billion to an amount roughly twice that. One British defense official blames the U.S. for that cost increase.
According to the unnamed official, the United States had insisted that the UK purchase the required
Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System
or EMALS directly through a government-to-government foreign military sales (FMS) deal rather than allowing the British to purchase directly from the manufacturer. That requirement allegedly added about 150M pounds or about 7% to the cost of obtaining the EMALS system.
The British government expects flight testing for the F-35B to begin in 2018 while initial operational capability will commence in 2020.
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