The British Royal Air Force (RAF) is spending millions of pounds on flawed F-35 Lightning II jets that it might never be able to fly properly, a new report has revealed.
Setbacks and hidden costs have driven the unit price of each jet to around £153 million, way higher than Lockheed Martin’s asking price of between £77 million and £100 million, The Times reported Monday.
The British daily suggested that besides the already overblown price, the taxpayers would also be required to pay for extra services such as software upgrades, spare parts and “cost reduction initiatives” buried deep in Lockheed’s contracts.
This is while according to a former senior RAF officer, the aircraft was still suffering from “utterly pathetic” software bugs and technical setbacks.
The UK has put in orders for 138 units. Forty-eight of those will be of the F-35B variant, which can take off and land vertically.
However, the report noted that four of the aircraft purchased so far are too heavy and cannot perform the function safely.
The fifth-generation stealth jet is also unable to transmit data to British ships or older planes without giving away its own position to the enemy.
More importantly, the aircraft’s £12 billion software system is prone to cyber attacks and Britain won’t be able to alter the code on its own, the report added.
In order to operate the aircraft, the UK military department in charge must set aside at least £400 million this year in order to get the required computer networks.
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The daily noted that weak bandwidth on British Navy warships was threatening the F-35’s ability to communicate with ground forces, hurting one of the aircraft’s main missions.
Upgrading satellite broadband across the RAF and the UK navy and buying technology the F-35 needs to communicate securely would cost up to £1 billion, according to General Richard Barrons, who was in charge of the British military’s information networks until last year.
Initially announced in 2001, the US-led F-35 Joint Strike Fighter project has ballooned into the most expensive weapons project in history.