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Next generation warplane ‘will provide world-beating capability’

The US-built F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter was criticised by The Times, which found a series of technical deficiencies.

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

Commodore Andrew Betton, commander of the Royal Navy’s carrier strike group, said the F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter would give the UK “a world-beating capability” alongside two new aircraft carriers.

The US-built jet 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 £150 million.

Manufacturer Lockheed Martin had said the aircraft will cost the UK between £77 million and £100 million each.

Speaking to the Press Association aboard American aircraft carrier USS George HW Bush, Cmdr Betton said the F-35B marked a true step forward for British warplanes.

F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (PA graphic)

“It will enable us to operate at very high tempo, high sortie generation rates with a significant payload and significant reach,” he said.

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

Royal Marine Lieutenant Colonel 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.

How the USS George Bush compares with the HMS Queen Elizabeth (PA graphic)

“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 told the Press Association.

“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’ investigation found the F-35B cannot transmit data to British ships or older planes without revealing its position to the enemy, while also claiming it was 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 deficiency reports raised for all three variants of the F-35 to date.

Captain Ken Houlberg, the UK carrier strike group chief of staff, said: “These are generation five aircraft, so they’re going to take us from a level and take us right to the top.

“These are aircraft that can be used across a range of mission sets at the very highest end and I’m very excited about them – they’re going to really make the Queen Elizabeth carrier strike group very special indeed.”


From Belfast Telegraph