The number of RAF combat aircraft is so low they would be wiped out by ‘attrition’ if Britain went to war with Putin as Russia has more than 20 times more aircraft and our fleet is smaller than European allies
- UK ‘dangerously exposed’ with just 169 frontline jets to Russia ‘s 3,500
The RAF’s fleet of combat aircraft is so small it would be wiped out if Britain went to war against Vladimir Putin, according to a parliamentary report.
There are so few Typhoon jets and F-35s that the fleet could not withstand the ‘levels of attrition’ that would occur.
The UK has just 169 frontline jets to Russia’s 3,500 and, after repeated post-Cold War cutbacks, our fleet is also smaller than that of our European allies.
According to the Defence Select Committee’s analysis, France has 231 combat aircraft, Germany 214 and Italy 199. As recently as 1990 the UK had 463.
The RAF claims that the sophistication of its aircraft compensates for it having fewer of them. But the report says the UK is ‘dangerously exposed’, adding: ‘The combat aircraft fleet provides boutique high capability [but] lacks numerical depth and has an inadequate reserve.
The cash-strapped MoD has been slow to build up its cache of F-35B stealth jets (File Photo)
‘In a peer-on-peer conflict such as a shooting war with Russia, every airframe will count.
‘[Government plans] will create a combat air capability gap which, on current plans, will persist well into the 2030s. This is unacceptable. The Ministry of Defence and the RAF must consider as a matter of urgency how they can increase combat air mass.’
Despite the shortage, the RAF intends to retire 30 of its Typhoons five years ahead of schedule in 2025, rather than upgrade them. This decision has been questioned by MPs.
The cash-strapped MoD has also been slow to build up its cache of F-35B stealth jets. So far, 31 have entered service. That should rise to 48 by 2025, and MPs expect the UK have 74 eventually, rather than 138 as originally planned.
MPs have said that more of the jets are not already in service due to confusion within the RAF over how many ground crew are required to maintain them.
The report said: ‘The RAF’s failure to correctly calculate the number of maintainers required to service the aircraft is inexcusable.’ It concluded that the RAF had been ‘hollowed out’ and ‘is too small to meet the demands of the growing challenges that it faces.’