Ministry denies RAF Marham’s new jets beset by faults, delays and extra costs

The F-35 Lightning making its first flypast over its future home at RAF Marham. Picture: Ian Burt

The F-35 Lightning making its first flypast over its future home at RAF Marham. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: Ian Burt

The arrival of the F35 Lightning has secured the future of RAF Marham and brought a £250m investment and 1,200 construction jobs to the Norfolk base.

Infrastructure works at RAF Marham in preparation for the Lightning aircraft that will arrive next y

Infrastructure works at RAF Marham in preparation for the Lightning aircraft that will arrive next year. Pictured is the new Training Centre. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: Ian Burt

But reports published by watchdog the US Government Accountability Office (GOA) have highlighted a string of technical problems with the £100m stealth jets.

MORE - Project Anvil brings £250m investment and world's most advanced jet to Marham

The Ministry of Defence insists the aircraft is the world's most advanced fighter jet and will create a 'formidable fighting force'.

The GOA says there are faults with the helmets pilots wear, which give them 360 degree vision; the aircraft's ejector seats and part of its wings.

It also claims that delays in testing computer software and mission systems will push up the costs of the aircraft to the American Department of Defence by $1.7bn.

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A report in The Times newspaper said UK taxpayers now faced a bill of more than £150m for each of the 138 aircraft the government has committed to buying.

It also claims the aircraft is vulnerable to cyber attack and unable to communicate with ships or other aircraft without giving its position away to the enemy.

The GOA estimates the aircraft possess 54pc of their 'full warfighting capacity'. It also states there have been problems with systems unexpectedly shutting down and re-starting.

In a statement the MoD said: 'The F-35B Lightning II aircraft is the world's most advanced fighter jet. Whether operating from land or with the Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers as a central component of the UK's Carrier strike capability, they will ensure a formidable fighting force.

'We are committed to the F-35 programme, which is on time, within costs and offers the best capability for our Armed Forces.

'All issues raised have been reported in the past and are under active management by the Joint Strike Fighter Joint Programme Office and the UK Ministry of Defence.

'The F-35 Programme is still within the development test phase. As issues are found, solutions are developed.'

The first F35 Lightning squadron is expected to become operational at Marham next summer when the Tornado aircraft which have based there for 35 years will be retired.

Runways are being resurfaced in readiness for its arrival, while a new command centre, maintenance hangar and training complex are also included in a £250m upgrade.

When operational, the aircraft will be based at Marham and on board the Royal Navy's new aircraft carriers the Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles.

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