US F-35A aircraft at Hill Air Force Base in Utah
Aircraft

F-35: Which Countries Use The Aircraft?

The Lightning programme has seen more than 500 fighter jets delivered so far - but which nations are flying it?

US F-35A aircraft at Hill Air Force Base in Utah

The United Kingdom is one of the nine nations across the world to operate F-35s on home soil and one of 13 countries that have placed orders for the aircraft.

The F-35B, one of the three variants of the warplane, is Britain's most advanced and expensive fighter jet.

In June 2019, British Lightning jets joined Typhoon aircraft over Iraq and Syria for their first operational missions, contributing to Operation Shader.

A year later, they left RAF Marham for trials in the North Sea with the Royal Navy's HMS Queen Elizabeth.

As of September 2020, more than 555 aircraft have been delivered by Lockheed Martin - the American aerospace, defence, arms and advanced technologies company primarily contracted to produce the F-35.

In total, F-35 aircraft based at 26 bases worldwide have accumulated nearly 320,000 flight hours.

But which countries are part of the Lightning programme, and what capabilities do the fighters have?

Countries With Operational F-35 Fleets

United Kingdom

Britain currently owns 18 F-35Bs and another 30 are in the works.

In total, the UK's F-35 fleet is expected to have 138 Lightning jets - 48 of those by 2025.

At the moment, 15 of the F-35Bs are based at RAF Marham, with the remaining three in the United States and due to fly to the UK by the end of this year.

United States

The US is the primary consumer of the F-35.

They have a planned procurement of a total of 1,762 F-35As for the US Air Force and a further 693 F-35Bs and F-35Cs for the US Marine Corps and the US Navy.

Italy

Italy originally ordered 131 F-35 aircraft, but reduced the number to 90 in 2012.

Of those 90 F-35s, 60 are F-35As and the remaining 30 F-35Bs.

As of October 2019, 28 aircraft had already been delivered and the remaining 62 were still in production.

The aircraft are being used by the Italian Air Force and the Italian Navy.

American F-35B aircraft arrived at RAF Marham this month to conduct training with the Royal Air Force (Picture: US Department of Defense).

The Netherlands

In 2015 the Netherlands joined the F-35 Lightning programme and placed an order for eight F-35As.

The aircraft is the official replacement for the Royal Netherlands Air Force's F-16s.

To date, nine F-35As were delivered to the Netherlands - four are operational at Leeuwarden Air Base and the rest are in the US for training.

In total, the country has ordered 46 aircraft.

Australia

Four Australian squadrons from the Royal Australian Air Force will have F-35As.

In total, Australia has committed to 100 F-35As, with the first one accepted into Australian service in 2018.

By 2021, the first F-35A Squadron, No. 3 Squadron, is expected to be operational.

Seventy-two aircraft are expected to be fully operational by 2023.

Norway

In 2015, the first two fighter jets for Norway were delivered to Luke Air Force Base in Arizona, where they were used for pilot training.

Nearly two years later, in November 2017, the F-35s arrived in Norway for permanent basing at Ørland Air Base.

A total of 25 aircraft are currently operational and seven of them are based in the US.

As of 2020, the Norwegian government has funded the procurement of 40 of 52 F-35s, with subsequent authorisation to occur on an annual basis.

Israel

Israel became the first country to select the F-35 aircraft through the US government's Foreign Military Sales process in October 2010.

In June 2016, the Israeli Air Force received the first F-35A at a ceremony in Texas.

Eighteen months later, in December 2017, Israel declared its first fleet of F-35As operationally capable.

A total of 50 F-35As are expected to be delivered to the Israeli Air Force.

Japan

Japan's procurement of F-35s was increased from 42 to 147 in December 2018.

The Japanese Ministry of Defence stated their fleet would include 105 F-35As and 42 F-35Bs.

In March 2019, the Japan Air Self Defense Force stood up its first operational F-35A fighter squadron, 302nd Squadron, at Misawa Air Base.

F-35C aircraft over Sierra Nevada mountains
The F-35C is the only of the three variants built specifically for aircraft carrier operations (Picture US Navy).

Republic of Korea

In September 2014, the Republic of Korea signed a Letter of Offer of Acceptance with the US for 40 F-35As.

The first F-35A for the Republic of Korea Air Force was delivered in March 2018 and pilot training began in Arizona at Luke Air Force Base the same spring.

In 2019, aircraft were delivered to Chongju Air Base and formally entered service.

To date, South Korea has taken delivery of 13 F-35As out of 40 ordered.

Countries Awaiting The F-35

Denmark

Denmark joined the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter programme in 2002 and has influenced technical elements of the F-35.

In 2008, they delivered a Danish F-16 aircraft to Edwards Air Force Base in the US to be used as a chase plane for the F-35 Development, Test and Evaluation programme. 

In June 2016, Denmark confirmed plans to procure 27 F-35As.

Singapore

In January 2019, Singapore announced its plan to buy a small number of F-35s to evaluate capability and suitability before committing on more to replace its fleet of F-16 aircraft.

A year later, the US State Department made a determination approving a possible foreign military sale to Singapore of up to 12 F-35Bs.

Singapore is set to purchase four F-35Bs with the option of an additional eight.

Belgium

In 2018, Belgium chose to replace its F-16s with F-35s.

In total, 34 F-35As are expected to be delivered to Belgium as part of a €4.4bn (£4.05bn) deal.

Poland

Poland signed a Letter of Offer and Acceptance with the US on 31 January 2020 for 32 F-35As, becoming the 10th NATO member to join the programme.

Cover image: F-35A at Hill Air Force Base, in Utah (Picture: US Air Force).