It says in Russia Today that an elderly British general thinks that The Russians (!!!!!) could ground Britain’s entire fleet of Lockheed F-35 aircraft by arranging (doubtless using the services of SMERSH) the assassination of all forty or so of the pilots currently qualified to fly the thing.
Dividing through, one finds that were these allegations to be true there would already be ten pilots to each aircraft.
There is nothing uniquely special about the F-35 apart from its absurd propulsion system (I use this harsh term having been in the aeronautical business and working on both JSF contenders at the time when everyone was utterly gobsmacked at Boeing’s hideous but workmanlike offering being declined in favour of Lockheed’s exquisitely complex feinwerk).
It must therefore be that despite the F-35’s peculiarities, no sillier than those of those of many Service aircraft, extra pilots are being trained all the time and will probably always comfortably outnumber the available aircraft (for a given value of ‘available’).
Therefore the general’s assertion is what a defence analyst might call bollocks-rich.
The question in my mind is why we need this Cold War baroque weapons system at all. It costs perhaps $100 million per aircraft, with a cost per flight hour of about $30,000.
Of course we need it to fit out the carrier(s). Why do we need the carrier(s)? The traditional term is force projection, part of strategic doctrine evolved during the Cold War and to which as a member of NATO the UK has always subscribed.
The next question being whether this very expensive subscription ought to be maintained.
We can imho no longer afford the conceit of being a member of NATO any more than we can that of being a member of the EU. Either will soon drag us into an wholly unnecessary war with Russia for no better reason than that such a war is what they have always planned, equipped and trained for (cf. the German railway timetable story from WWI), and is that upon which their status quo depends.
Like the Swiss, we should defend ourselves, this to be construed in the traditional senses of defend and ourselves.