This is an ongoing story which 'sources' - I suspect the same one - brings up every few months. When he was the RAF lead for the F-35, Air Cdre (now AVM) Linc Taylor was asked a question a few years ago about the possibility of a split F-35B/F-35A buy.Are the RAF now considering scrapping the rest of the F-35 B buy and plumping for more As to Save money? Looks like someone in the Navy has been heavily briefing against their Light Blue counterparts
Defence sources have expressed concerns regarding the procurement of F-35s with some planes unable to take off from new aircraft carrierswww.telegraph.co.uk
He made the fatal mistake of giving an honest answer to the question (we've not decided yet) with some background to the effect that clearly F-35Bs were required for the carrier, but that it would be silly to state that every one of the intended 138 aircraft to be bought would be the B-model.
The logic here made - and makes - sense because it was underpinned by longer-term questions, such as:
1. How many aircraft are we likely to have aboard a carrier at any one time? If the government sets it at a single carrier, with the other ship being in readiness (apart from when, metaphorically speaking, up on axle stands getting a refit), how many of the B-model are required? If the answer is 'not 138', then should some of that 138 be F-35A to replace the earlier Typhoons, or to increase the front line strength of the RAF, albeit some interesting questions like 'who flies and maintains these extra aeroplanes, then?' have to be asked in that scenario.
2. Does the fact that the F-35A would require either modifications to equip it for probe and drogue refuelling or a contract variation to get a boom onto Voyager mean that it'd be better to stick with the F-35B anyway? Should we be looking at buying more F-35s towards the end of the aircraft's intended production run to replace some of the Typhoon force, and if so, does this mean that (say) a dozen of the 138 we're buying - NB in the same way we were 'buying' 110 TSR2 and then 110, no wait, 50 F-111 - should be F-35A, with an extra order for (say) 30 more coming along later?
Linc Taylor made the point that the 'next SDSR' would be a good time to start asking these questions. The situation was then complicated further by the fact that the new occupant (in 2017) of the CoS Capability post was (and is) well known for not being a fan of carriers. Thus, the immediate willingness on the part of some commentators and sources to see any comment about buying F-35A as being an Evil Crab Plot (ECP) was reinforced.
This isn't to say that an ECP isn't now underway, but as things stand I suspect that this story is an outgrowth of that first set of stories from four years ago. The fact that Linc Taylor is now CoS Cap RAF has probably reinforced the suspicions of those who see the entirety of UK Defence since 1918 as having been influenced by crustacean malevolence, scheming and plotting, and they have a ready outlet in the Torygraph...
The “outdated aircraft” is the F-35A!
From the article:
...which is a daft, nay, stupid argument to run when the PM's Chief of Staff is gunning for the carriers:
'So, Admiral, your argument is that the F-35A is outdated. Now, as I understand it, the F-35B is an F-35A with less range, more weight and smaller bomb bays, so that means it is not only outdated but inferior to the F-35A. I put it to you that we should stop buying this outdated aeroplane immediately, sell the carriers to the United States so they can be used by the USMC, and spend the money gained from this on space, cyber and Artificial Intelligence.'
As well as being a stupid argument it has the further disadvantage of being b*llocks.