The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter

Published 06 February 2015

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter will be the new multirole fast jet for the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force. It will serve as the strike capability for the new Queen Elizabeth Aircraft Carrier and will partner the Typhoon to form the future fast jet fleet for the RAF. There are three variants of the Joint Strike Fighter. The Government attracted criticism for its decision in 2010 to select a different variant to that originally chosen by the previous Government, and again for reverting back to the original choice two years later.

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The F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter is the new combat aircraft for the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy. It is a fifth generation multi-role fighter with stealth capabilities.

Lightning II will partner Typhoon to provide the RAF’s future fast-jet fleet from 2019 and provide the carrier strike capability for the new Queen Elizabeth-class Aircraft Carriers from 2020 onwards.

The programme is forecast to cost just over £5 billion so far. The bulk order not expected to be placed until 2017. The total fleet size is not expected to be confirmed until the next Strategic and Defence Review at the earliest.

The UK is buying the Short Take-Off and Vertical Landing (STOVL) variant, one of three variants produced by Lockheed Martin. This variant was selected in 2002 but in 2010 the new Government controversially switched to the Carrier variant. This had a knock-on effect of delaying into service the new aircraft carriers currently under construction. In 2012 the Government reversed its position and recommitted to the STOVL variant.

This note provides a short history of the programme for the United Kingdom.

Commons Briefing papers SN06278

Author: Louisa Brooke-Holland

Topic: Defence equipment and procurement

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