Britain does U-turn on F-35 jet decision

F35-BBy Douglas Barrie, Senior Fellow for Military Aerospace, and Christian Le Miere Research Fellow for Naval Forces and Maritime Security

It seems to have been a case of ‘decide in haste and repent at leisure’ for Britain’s government, which this week changed its mind on the version of F-35 jet to buy for the UK’s next aircraft carrier – reverting to the model chosen by the previous administration that it previously pilloried as the wrong choice.

The Conservative-led government overturned Labour’s choice of the F-35B (pictured)  – a vertical take-off and landing (STOVL) aircraft like the Harrier jump jet it was designed to replace – as part of its Strategic Defence and Security Review in October 2010. It decided to switch to the conventional take-off and landing F-35C, and to equip one of two new aircraft carriers under construction with the catapult and arrestor equipment needed to launch and recover it.

Shortly before Britain controversially began a decade with no carrier strike capability, Prime Minister David Cameron told parliament that the new aircraft carriers ordered by Labour were ‘unable to work effectively with our key defence partners, the United States or France’. He added that the F-35B jets Labour chose to fly off the carriers were a ‘more expensive and less capable version of the Joint Strike Fighter’.

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