After the first of the UK’s F-35s took to the air on Apr. 13, it would seem that British Prime Minister David Cameron has been persuaded into going back with the STOVL (Short Take Off Vertical Landing) version and reverse his earlier decision to reverse order from the F-35B the F-35C CV (Carrier Variant).
The British newspaper The Daily Mail has reported that Cameron has taken on board military advice and gone with the B version that was controversially axed in 2010 as the British government, following a Strategic Defence and Security Review, negotiated a deal to get the JSF that will equip the American flattops instead of that destined for the U.S. Marine Corps.
Cameron made the U-turn after hearing that the changes needed by the two carriers would amount to £1.8 billion and delay the whole project by 7 years.
The Daily Mail quoted a Downing street official as saying: “The major problem with the conventional aircraft [the CV variant] is that we would be without carrier capability for far too long”.
Obviously, such uncertainity gives us more ammunition to criticise the initial decision to scrap the two small aircraft carriers HMS Ark Royal and HMS Invincible (leaving the UK with no maritime strike capability for a decade or more), the subsequent retirement of the Harrier “Jump Jet” and last year’s sale of the RAF’s 72 Harrier jets to the USMC for a mere 180 million USD.
The (final?) decision is expected to be signed off officially within the next few weeks.
In the meanwhile Lockheed Martin has released a video of the UK’s F-35B inaugural flight.
The one in the video should be UK future’s F-35 version. Until next U-turn on future Britain’s aircraft carrier and naval aviation.
Richard Clements for TheAviationist.com
- Non-US F-35 takes to the skies: first UK’s Joint Strike Fighter inaugural flight (with some nice low-visibility markings) (theaviationist.com)
- EXCLUSIVE: Cameron makes humiliating u-turn on future of Britain’s aircraft … – Daily Mail (dailymail.co.uk)