UK F-35B from 617 Squadron on board HMS Queen Elizabeth with 820 NAS Merlin in background (Picture: MOD).
UK F-35B from 617 Squadron on board HMS Queen Elizabeth with 820 NAS Merlin in background (Picture: MOD).
Aircraft

Defence Secretary says there are currently more British F-35s than pilots

UK F-35B from 617 Squadron on board HMS Queen Elizabeth with 820 NAS Merlin in background (Picture: MOD).
UK F-35B from 617 Squadron on board HMS Queen Elizabeth with 820 NAS Merlin in background (Picture: MOD).

The Defence Secretary has said there are currently more UK F-35 aircraft than pilots as he told MPs that some colleagues want to play 'Top Trumps' with defence investment priorities.

Ben Wallace said he would like to see defence spending to go up "by significant amounts" – but acknowledged he lives "in the real world".

Mr Wallace told the Lords International Relations and Defence Committee: "If we get a lot more money over the next 10 years, do I put more in the Air Force and less in the Army, or do I put more in… submarines and more in surface ships?

Watch: Defence Secretary meets Turkish counterpart at military exhibition in Istanbul.

"It's an interesting question that never pleases many people and is important that we get that in the right place.

"Unless you can afford mass properly, the question has to be 'would you not rather have a perfectly formed, properly defended, capable unit size rather than just a huge number of people that we can play Top Trumps with'?

"A lot of my colleagues want to play Top Trumps," he added, referring to the card game where values are compared in a bid to try to trump and win an opponent's card.

"What's the point of having hundreds of tanks if you can't protect them?"

The Defence Secretary did, however, say he is "confident" there is a "recognition that defence is moving up the funding priority ladder".

He said it will be revealed in the upcoming budget "how fixed" the new Prime Minister and Chancellor are on raising defence spending to 3% of GDP.

Addressing the Ukraine War, Mr Wallace said Crimea is likely to come within range of Ukrainian artillery by the end of November.

Ben Wallace told the committee that the momentum of the war was with Ukraine, which was inflicting "significant harm on the Russian army and air force".

He said: "The direction of travel is that I think it is likely that by the end of this month, the northern part of Kherson will be depleted of Russians or the Russians will have left that part, which brings into range parts of Crimea from long-range artillery that the Ukraine held or the HIMARS-type systems."

Kherson, in southern Ukraine, is currently under Russian occupation and Russian-installed local authorities have sought to evacuate civilians from the area in anticipation of a Ukrainian offensive.