F-35 ABCs: Learn about the versions of Britain’s most expensive military aircraft.


The F-35B is the most expensive and advanced military Aircraft owned by the United Kingdom, which already has 21. The British F-35Bs performed their first operational missions over Iraq and Syria in 2019.

The following year, they left RAF Marham for North Sea trials aboard the Royal Navy’s aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth.

Seven countries outside the United Kingdom and the United States Australia, Italy, Norway, South Korea, Israel, Japan, and the Netherlands operate F-35s on their home soil. 

Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Singapore, and Poland have also made purchases. Britain is anticipated to get a maximum of 138 F-35Bs, while the United States Air Force will acquire 1,763 F-35As.

However, what is the difference between models A, B, and C?

Aircraft ABCs

The F-35 jet has three variants:

  1. F-35A conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL) variant.
  2. F-35B short takeoff/vertical landing (STOVL) variant.
  3. F-35C carrier variant (CV).

All three variations perform similarly; what sets them apart is how they should be based. Due to the specific needs of the F-35B and F-35C, such as short takeoff and landing or landing on carriers, the Aircraft has developed their launch and landing systems.

Using most of the same parts throughout the three variants enables service-specific Aircraft and cost savings due to shared parts and processes.


The F-35A is the variant meant to fly from standard runways and has a conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL) capability.

It is the only version that has an internal 25 mm cannon. It also has two air-to-air missile systems and two 2,000 lb bombs as the B and C versions.


The F-35A is the most common version of the F-35, as it will be used by the US Air Force, most allied air forces, and Foreign Military Sales (FMS) nations.

The Royal Australian Air Force declared its F-35As “ready to strike,” achieving Initial Operational Capability, meaning the Aircraft can be deployed on operations.

They are not capable of operating from the UK’s Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers.


The F-35B STOVL model can take off and land vertically, making it suitable for use by a wide variety of air-capable ships such as the Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers.


The planes can also use standard takeoff and landing techniques on long runways found at big bases. B Variant is the most expensive of the three Aircraft. each cost around $122.4m.

The manufacturer, Lockheed Martin, says it plans to lower this price gradually over time, first with the F-35A and subsequently with the F-35B and C.


The F-35C carrier variant (CV) is intended to be the United States Navy’s first stealth fighter and the world’s only long-range stealth strike fighter designed and developed for aircraft carrier operations.


The F-35C features a greater wing span (13.1 meters versus 10.7 meters for the A and B variants) and more durable landing gear.

These characteristics make the Aircraft suited for catapult-style assisted launches and fly-in arrestments on naval aircraft carriers utilized by the United States Navy.

Its wingtips fold to provide extra space on the deployed deck of the carrier.

The F-35C has a larger fuel capacity than the other two F-35 models and carries the same arsenal of weaponry as the F-35B.