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UK bemoans lack of F-35 transparency, requests regular programme updates

18 December 2017
The UK has to date received 10 of a planned 138 F-35 aircraft. A parliamentary committee looking into the programme has highlighted a lack of transparency on technical issues and costs that could undermine public support for the multibillion dollar project. Source: IHS Markit/Patrick Allen

The UK parliament has requested that the Ministry of Defence (MoD) provide it with six-monthly updates on the progress and cost of the international Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) programme.

The request was made in a Defence Committee report titled ‘Unclear for take-off? F-35 Procurement’ that was published on 19 December. In the report, the committee noted that a lack of transparency in the F-35 programme in general and inadequate responses to a critical article published in The Times earlier in the year in particular, risk undermining public confidence in the project that is critical to the future of UK defence.

“We, therefore, recommend that the MoD provide the Committee with six-monthly updates on the programme, detailing the progress made in addressing the issues that have been previously identified, as well as any future problems. We also believe that these updates should include information on the ongoing cost of the programme,” the Committee said in its report titled ‘Unclear for take-off? F-35 Procurement’.

As noted by the Committee, its report was commissioned in response to a July report in The Times that catalogued a host of ongoing problems with the F-35. These included claims that the aircraft “is way over budget, unreliable, full of software glitches, and potentially unsafe”. It was the “unacceptable lack of transparency regarding costs, and a poor initial response from the MoD and Lockheed Martin” in the immediate wake of story that risked undermining public confidence in the programme.

“There has been an unacceptable lack of transparency from the MoD and Lockheed Martin which risks undermining public confidence in the programme. F-35 is a major investment for the UK and we want it to succeed for the good of this country’s security.

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