USMC: We want more F-35s per year than you Limeys will get in half a decade

American general wants rid of his Harriers tout suite

RAF F-35B ZM137, visiting the UK in 2016. Crown copyright
British F-35B Lightning ZM137, seen at RAF Fairford in 2016. Crown copyright

The head of US Marine Corps aviation wants to buy more F-35Bs per year than the UK will receive in the next five.

At a press conference yesterday, Lieutenant General Jon Davis, USMC deputy commandant for aviation, said he wants the service to increase its purchase rate to 37 F-35Bs per year.

Under current plans, the USMC would buy 20 aircraft per year until 2021, according to American military news website Defense News.

"We have the infrastructure in place," said Lt Gen Davis. "Bottom line is we've had a very anaemic ramp, so we've been holding onto the older airplanes longer. If asked by the American people to get the airplanes faster, I guarantee we'd put them into play very, very quickly."

The F-35B will replace the Harrier and F/A-18 Hornet fast jets in USMC service. Currently the marines own 50 F-35Bs, against the UK's seven jets – all of which are based in the US.

Deliveries of British F-35Bs are proceeding at a drip-feed pace, the idea being to get just enough aircraft delivered by 2021 for new aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth to deploy with a part-British, part-USMC air wing. The carrier's maiden operational deployment will see her sailing to the South China Sea, where the UK has had minimal military involvement over the past few years.

By 2023 the British intention is to have a bare minimum of 24 F-35s on strength, though informed sources have whispered to The Register that the Ministry of Defence hopes it will get its hands on up to 40 aircraft by then. In total the UK will buy 138 F-35s.

In the meantime, the seven British-owned aircraft are being used on flight and weapons trials. Oversight and control of the trials programme by the UK is minimal, with Lockheed Martin reporting to the US F-35 Joint Project Office on all matters. A number of Royal Air Force personnel are currently posted in the US learning how to fly and maintain the jets. ®

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