UK Politics

Osborne: UK to speed up aircraft carrier jet purchase

An American F35 aircraft Image copyright Lockheed Martin
Image caption The F35 Joint Strike Fighter is built in the United States, as is the one pictured

Britain is to speed up the purchase of new fighter jets to step up its "aircraft carrier punch" Chancellor George Osborne says, as the government prepares to outline defence spending.

The move will be part of Monday's Strategic Defence and Security Review.

It means the UK will have 24 F35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft available on its two new aircraft carriers by 2023.

Mr Osborne told the BBC it would put the UK second only to the US in carrier aircraft capability.

"We are going to step up the aircraft carrier punch of the United Kingdom. We are going to make sure that when these aircraft carriers are available, they are going to have planes that can fly from them in force," he said.

"By 2023, we will be able to have these jets - some of the most powerful in the world - the F35, on the decks of these carriers and Britain, second only to the United States, will be able to project power abroad in order to defend ourselves at home."

The government had proposed to have only eight of the US-built fighters available for deployment to the new carriers HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales in that timeframe.

The 18 others on order will be used in the training fleet or in maintenance, according to the Sunday Times.

In Monday's defence review, David Cameron is also expected to commit the UK to purchasing 138 F35 jets overall and over a longer period of time.

The prime minister will also announce the purchase of new reconnaissance planes - to replace the Nimrod spy planes scrapped in George Osborne's 2010 spending review, according to The Guardian.

Mr Osborne pledged in his summer Budget to meet Nato's target of spending 2% of national income on defence every year, up to 2020. That means spending on defence will rise in real terms - 0.5% above inflation - every year during the current Parliament.

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