A quick search under the F-35 tag will reveal to you a longer troubled history than what one article alone will.
A plane so technologically advanced that it would give Britain and the US air superiority in any future conflict and billed as the world’s most advanced stealth fighter jet, could be one of “the biggest white elephants in history”, according to a former defence minister.
And while costs of the F-35 spiral and delays run into years, another commentator has warned that “our skies and seas are vulnerable”.
The aircraft, manufactured by Lockheed Martin, was designed to replace the Harrier jump-jet, which went out of service in 2011. The UK once envisaged ordering 150 F-35s, to be ready by 2012. Three years on, the F-35 is still far from ready to fly in combat and the cost of a single jet has risen from £33m to £87m. The UK has ordered only eight to date.Not one of the 131 jets built so far is combat-ready. And The Independent on Sunday can reveal that the entire fleet is having its engines removed and fixed, to guard against a repeat of a test-plane engine fire that grounded the fleet last year. Pratt & Whitney, the engine’s makers, came up with an ad hoc solution to friction overheating the engine; cutting a groove in the engine seal.
It is yet another setback in a long series of delays to the Joint Strike Fighter programme, in which Britain is a partner with the US.The Ministry of Defence (MoD) insists the UK fleet will have the “warfighting capability required” by 2018 – six years late. However, former armed forces minister Sir Nick Harvey said there was “not a cat in hell’s chance” the F-35 would be combat-ready by 2018. “I don’t recall … having heard anyone suggesting that these things could be used in combat before 2020,” he said. Asked if the fighter had become a white elephant, he replied: “You could argue it was already one of the biggest white elephants in history a long time ago.”
Air Chief Marshal Sir Michael Graydon CBE, who was Chief of the Air Staff when the F-35 was first discussed in the 1990s, branded the small number ordered by Britain as “a joke” and accused MoD officials of being “in denial” over the ability of Britain to run a “serious air force”.
Britain’s ageing Tornados will be out of service in three years, leaving the UK with a maximum “offensive capability” of 60 aircraft, he said. “The Saudis [were] using up to 100 aircraft in their campaign in Yemen. We couldn’t put 100 aircraft into the air to save our lives.”
On cost, he added, the jets were now close to “unaffordable” and “it will be token numbers we will be able to afford unless there is a radical change in thinking by the Government”.
Full article: New US fighter jet on course to becoming ‘one of history’s biggest white elephants’ (The Independent)