UK could revert to STOVL F-35B for carriers

by Jim Adlam

F-35B

The short take-off/vertical landing (STOVL) F-35B might be used for the UK's Joint Combat Aircraft (JCA) programme after all in a major policy u-turn, say sources.

The F-35B version of the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) was the UK's original choice for its new Royal Navy carriers, but in late 2010 the UK chose the non-STOVL F-35C Carrier Variant for this job instead. The primary reason cited for this was to increase interoperability with US and French carrier forces, along with lower long-term costs, greater range and payload.

However, the costs of adding catapults and arrester gear to the UK's new aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales to accept the F-35C have now forced the MoD to reconsider, say ministry sources. Some estimates put the carrier conversion cost at more than GBP1.5bn (USD2.4bn). It is also believed that the F-35B could be rushed into UK service quicker than the F-35C.

Officially, the MoD says it is sticking to its stated plan to buy the F-35C.

Tags: F-35B, F-35C, JSF, Joint Strike Fighter, UK, Royal Navy, Joint Combat Aircraft, JAC, carrier, MoD

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