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F-35 Programme

Volume 604: debated on Monday 18 January 2016

14. What discussions he has had with his US counterpart on the cost, operational capacity and reliability of the F-35 programme. (903063)

I had a successful bilateral meeting with Bob Work, the US Deputy Secretary of Defence, only last Friday, at which the F-35 programme came up. Aircraft costs are in line with estimates, operational capability is expanding and fleet reliability is improving as more aircraft come on stream and into the programme, and logistic support increases. The aircraft remains on schedule to meet our initial operating capability in December 2018.

I thank the Minister for his response. Will he reassure the House that he will not bring the current fleet of Tornado aircraft out of service until the F-35 has proven its operational reliability after several years of active service?

The outstanding air-to-ground capability of our Tornado squadrons is being steadily migrated on to the Typhoon platform initially. In November’s SDSR, we secured considerable investment in the RAF combat jet fleets, including the extension of our Tornado squadrons’ out-of-service date to 2018-19, an increase in our Typhoon fleet by two squadrons, and the extension of the Typhoon out-of-service date to 2040. In addition, we reaffirmed our commitment to acquiring a total of 138 F-35s during the life of the programme and buying more aircraft earlier, so that we have 24 F-35 Lightning IIs by 2023.