British Navy and Air Force face off in dispute over new F-35 jets

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After several years without a functional aircraft carrier, Britain introduced the HMS Queen Elizabeth to the Royal Navy in December 2017 and the HMS Prince of Wales is expected in 2020; the UK is in the process of acquiring 48 US F-35B naval jets for their flight decks. However, the Royal Air Force is interested in growing its own fleet.

Two sources close to the Royal Navy have said that senior Royal Air Force officers are privately pushing for the UK to purchase F-35A Lockheed Martin supersonic jets, which are incapable of taking off from aircraft carriers, rather than some of the 48 F-35 Lightning II jets it has ordered that can operate from ships at sea, Sky News reported.

The sources said that any cut from the order for next generation F-35B aircraft, which will be able to take off and land on the HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales, would be a huge mistake, as it would redistribute the planes the £3bn carriers will be equipped to carry in the coming years.

“This will completely undermine … the whole carrier programme,” one source told Sky News, adding that “there is no operational reason whatsoever for the RAF to have the A [land-based] variant [of the F-35]. If it can't fly from an aircraft carrier it shouldn't be purchased.”

The source outlined that the Royal Navy officials are in fury over the wish of Royal Air Force to put “its self-serving agenda above what is best for the nation”, calling the whole situation “an absolute disgrace” which “should not be allowed to happen”.

2018.12.01 / 13:22
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