The UK Ministry of Defence is planning to buy more A400M military airlifters and F-35 combat aircraft, according to a new plan on defense equipment spending.  

The Defence Equipment Plan, published on February 21, 2022, is an annual document that sets out how the MoD plans to manage funding to deliver equipment programs. This latest edition covers the period April 2021 to March 2031.    

The A400M, also known as the Atlas C1, entered service with the Royal Air Force in 2014. It has ordered 22 of the aircraft. The UK has 48 F-35s on order, set to be delivered by 2025. 

The Defence Equipment Plan says that a further tranche of F-35 fighters and more A400M aircraft are among planned investments, although cautions that it depends how affordable the program is.  

It states: “In later years of the plan, planned equipment investments worth £2.3 billion, including a second tranche of F35 and further A400M aircraft, have not yet been delegated to TLBs and doing so will be dependent on the affordability of the programme as a whole.”  

There are six TLBs, or Top Level Budget holders: the Navy, Army, Air, UK Strategic Command, the Defence Nuclear Organisation, and Strategic Programmes. 

A related report from the National Audit Office states that the additional A400M aircraft are among the largest new investments for the 2021-2031 equipment plans and that they will be purchased from 2028-2029, with a budget of £750 million ($1 billion). The F-35s will be purchased from 2027-2028, with a budget of £1.4 billion ($1.9 billion) 

nao equipment plan

National Audit Office

Overall, the UK MoD plans to spend £238 billion on equipment procurement and support over the ten years from 2021/22, compared to £190 billion planned in 2021’s update  

As per April 2021, the MoD estimated that its spending plans would cost £234 billion over ten years, meaning the new budget gives a buffer of £4.3 billion headroom. “This compares with a shortfall of £7.3 billion reported last year,” the MoD noted in the spending plan.   

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The Airbus A400M transporter successfully launches a drone from its cargo hold as part of the Future Combat Air System program.