New Marham jet and aircraft carrier will give UK “world-beating” capability

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

Senior military leaders have dismissed concerns over Britain's next generation warplane, calling it game changing for the UK's military prowess.

The US-built jet, whose main UK base will be at RAF Marham, was subject to a damning investigation by the Times, which found a series of technical deficiencies.

The newspaper also found that hidden costs were pushing the price of each plane to more than £150m. Manufacturer Lockheed Martin had said the aircraft will cost the UK up to £100m each.

Speaking to the Press Association aboard American aircraft carrier USS George HW Bush Cmdr Andrew Betton, commander of the Royal Navy's carrier strike group, said the F-35B marked a true step forward for British warplanes.

He said: 'It will enable us to operate at very high tempo, high sortie generation rates with a significant payload and significant reach.

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'I'm confident that the F-35B, combined with the Queen Elizabeth class carrier, will give us a world-beating capability.'

Royal Marine Lieut Col Phil Kelly, a former Harrier jet pilot who is now the strike warfare commander in the UK's carrier strike group, also praised the new aircraft.

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'Cost is not something I can comment on, that's not my business - I'm just lucky enough to be able to receive the goods that are bought for me to go and employ,' he said.

'I'm more than happy having a fifth generation fighter coming to us, with a lot of the capabilities that they will bring will be game changing for us.'

The Times said the F-35B was unable to transmit data to British ships or older aircraft without revealing its position to the enemy, while also claiming its systems were vulnerable to cyber attack.

Defence minister Harriett Baldwin last month told Parliament there are around 19 important deficiency reports that remain open, out of 2,600 raised for all three variants of the F-35 to date.

The Royal Navy's future flagship is expected to arrive in her new home port within weeks, Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon has confirmed.

The £3bn aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth will sail into Portsmouth following extensive preparations at the naval base to accommodate the largest ship in the fleet.

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