The Lockheed Martin F35 jet has been plagued with delays and overspends
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has placed orders for 48 the fearsome F-35 Lightning IIs at an estimated cost of around £90million ($123m) each.
Although 14 of this initial order have been built by American aerospace giant Lockheed Martin, the planes are still sat in the United States and are lacking new software required to allow them to communicate with older aircraft.
The cutting-edge fighters have been specially designed to operate from the UK’s flagship aircraft carrier, the HMS Queen Elizabeth.
The jets are capable of reaching speeds of more than 1.5 times the speed of sound and boast a whole host of sophisticated features, including the latest in stealth technology which makes them difficult to detect by enemy radar.
The F-35 programme remains on track and within budget, providing a game-changing capability for our armed forces.
But the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter programme has been plagued with delays, glitches and massive overspends, and Britain has already spent £5.8bn and still no jets to show for it.
A total of £9.1bn has been earmarked to purchase all 48 jets.
And now US officials are demanding the UK pay up a share of the latest upgrade development costs.
Niki Tsongas, a member of the House of Representatives armed services committee, told US lawmakers the new “modernisation” costs would be spread over the next seven years.
The UK’s F35 jets are still grounded in the USA
She said the costs will be split between £7.8bn ($10.8bn) for the new software and a further £3.8bn ($5.4bn) for deploying the updates.
However it is not clear exactly how much of this total the UK will be expected to pay.
The revelation comes after MoD chiefs were branded “unacceptable’ by the Commons Defence Committee for turning down repeated requests for the full cost of each F-35.
Speaking in December, Committee chairman Julian Lewis warned: “There has been an unacceptable lack of transparency from the MoD and Lockheed Martin which risks undermining public confidence in the programme.
The Lockheed Martin F-35 has only been displayed in full-scale model form in the UK
“F-35 is a major investment for the UK and we want it to succeed for the good of this country’s security.
“However, it is precisely because this project is so important that it must be subjected to the closest possible scrutiny.”
Commenting on the latest upgrade costs, a spokesman for the MoD said: “The F-35 programme remains on track and within budget, providing a game-changing capability for our armed forces.
“We continue to drive down costs with every purchase.”