The Express Online, amazingly, has published an article on their website with claims “new F-35 jets still can’t fly”, this is embarrassingly incorrect for the newspaper as they can indeed fly.

The cost of the F-35 Block 4 upgrade programme has quadrupled since August, according to the latest estimates that emerged during a March the 7th congressional hearing in the US. The upcoming block, Block 4, is about incorporating a large number of additions and a number of new capabilities. It was always going to cost more given that it adds more.

This upgrade has nothing to do with the original specification covered in Block 3F which is on-track. The aircraft certainly can fly and they’re flying operationally with the United States already, something the Daily Expressed seemed to recognise as it removed the article from its website after we objected.

Defence commentator Seb Haggart tweeted:

Wing Commander Scott Williams, who will become Officer Commanding 207 Squadron when it reforms in the summer of 2019, responded:

Also mentioned in the article, a cached version of which can be found here, is something quite strange:

“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.”

A couple of points here. The first, it’s 15 jets now. The second, them being in the United States isn’t some kind of blunder, it’s part of the plan. British jets are currently in the states as part of the pooled training and development programme for the type and will be moving to the UK later this year when ready.

The Pentagon estimates it will cost nearly $16 billion to furnish the fleet of F-35 jets with new capabilities, a US lawmaker said on Wednesday, citing information provided by the Pentagon on the programme. Modernisation costs would be split between $10.8 billion for software development and $5.4 billion for deploying the updates and other procurement in support of the modernisation efforts, Representative Niki Tsongas said at a hearing of a subcommittee of the House of Representatives Armed Services Committee, citing the information provided by the Pentagon.

Vice Admiral Mathias Winter, the head of the F-35 Joint Program Office which administers the program, provided some detail on the modernisation program.

“Continuous enhancements and improvements will be made to increase capabilities that make the F-35 more lethal and survivable.”

The $16 billion figure represents the outer limit of the modernisation costs. Commenting on the latest upgrade, a spokesman 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.”

Wing Commander Scott Williams said earlier in the year about the jet:

“My first flight in the F-35B was incredible and certainly exceeded expectations. On take-off, the responsiveness and power of the engine were extremely impressive and the jet accelerated rapidly without afterburner. Once airborne, I was immediately struck by how smooth and agile the aircraft was to fly, and how seamlessly its sensors and mission systems gave me the information I needed – a real testament to the aircraft’s design. There were many airborne exercises to get through but I can confidently say that the Lightning does a great job of easing the workload in the cockpit and is a real pleasure to fly.”

This summer F-35s and personnel of 617 Squadron will arrive at RAF Marham. They will then undergo an intense phase of training to be able to declare a land-based Initial Operational Capability by the end of the year. The Lightning OCU, 207 Squadron will follow and occupy new buildings adjacent to the new Dambusters facilities at the Norfolk base in due course.

“We’re not just training pilots on the OCU. Cutting-edge facilities being built at RAF Marham, including our ‘School House’, will train engineers and ops support personnel destined for the Lightning Force. Next year we take what we’ve learned in the USA to the UK and re-form a historic squadron that will begin training all our future Lightning sailors and airmen. It’s a significant and exciting challenge.”

In the UK, 207 Squadron will initially operate five to six aircraft and within about two years have a full complement of eight F-35B. Until then UK personnel will remain an integral part of VMFAT-501, ‘Warlords’, the sole US Marine Corps F-35B training squadron. Commanded by a USMC Lieutenant Colonel, the UK provides a third of the unit’s manpower and a significant number of its instructor pilots.

“That’s a great relationship. Every day, US and UK personnel are flying and engineering each other’s aircraft in one large ‘pool’, which is brilliant” said Wg Cdr Williams.

“Ultimately, it means the UK and USMC can train faster than would otherwise be possible, and we learn a great deal more from each other’s experiences of operating this new jet.”

At the moment, Lightning engineers and mission support personnel are trained at Eglin AFB, Florida. The engineering personnel also use synthetic trainers and learn on equipment that is a step change from what they were taught on at RAF Cosford as Wg Cdr Williams explained:

“When you start peeling back what’s in this aeroplane it’s definitely next-generation stuff, right down to piping conduits and how your repair defects. There are some real engineering improvements from the ‘old school’; it’s a huge jump for the guys and girls on the team.”

One of the innovations of F-35 is the Autonomic Logistics Information System (ALIS) which gives F-35 operators the ability to plan, maintain and sustain the aircraft’s systems. Wg Cdr Williams:

“The engineers pull off the joint technical data from the ALIS system and it tells them ‘if this happens, this is how you fix it’. They follow the process and ALIS ticks the aircraft as ready to fly. When all the ticks are completed the aircraft can be released for flight. In so many ways it’s a different way of doing things that we’ve done for Tornado, Harrier and, to an extent, the Typhoon as well. The F-35 is certainly a game-changing capability for the UK but it wouldn’t happen without a team of dedicated Airmen, Sailors and Marines who work hard every day toward the mission. It’s a huge privilege to be part of that.”

36 COMMENTS

  1. Shoddy journalism yet again, coming shortly after the QEC article last week, its probably time for some sort of standards to be applied by law to newspaper and internet articles that represent themselves for commercial gain or as a “golden source”.

    There really is no excuse for this level of amateurism.

    • Pacman – Maybe we are being too kind and it isn’t ‘amateurism’ its a deliberate Editorial Policy. Now THAT would be serious as it affects National security …

      • With Russian influence in western politics being widely discussed, it would not be any stretch of the imagination to think that this article was written by a journo from RT for the Express.

  2. We have come to expect this level of stupidity on ‘Social media’, YouTube, Twatter, Bacefook etc and while its unforgivable IMHO from anyone we just seem accept it. God knows why. Well apparently now we have to accept this [email protected] from mainstream media as well. Probably written by some jumped up little twerp on a gap year from the LSE.

    Mind we shouldn’t be too surprised as the Sun ran the ‘Leaking Carrier’ story last year….

    #facePalm

  3. God bless the British press and may we all ban the term reporter from the dictionary and replace it with fairy tale maker. What a bunch.

  4. This sort of thing is why I won’t buy a newspaper – I’ve lost count of the number of stories I’ve read that that I know are factually incorrect. To my mind that means that therefore I can’t trust anything they print about subjects I’m not familiar with.

    • I can’t agree more.

      I’ve recently given up reading a number of websites including, but not limited to:
      – Guardian and The Independent: Kept getting tech things wrong and was spreading complete BS with regards to Bitcoin
      – Sky News: Last week produced a small video of Ello Musks “Hyperloop” which was in fact, the glass vehicle proposed for his underground complimentary system, entirely different to the overground vacuum tube Hyperloop!

      IF news we know of is so badly reported and factually wrong, how can we believe them on things we know nothing about?

  5. Usual rubbish to stir the anger over NHS funding shortfall. A similar daft piece appeared when it was disclosed HMS Queen Elisabeth was leaking!

    One question, if not mentioned above, what about the F35 cost rollback, which Trump managed to negotiate? Do these updated costs cancel them out? In regards to the UK, are we buying Block4 and have the obvious increases been wired into the MOD’s budgets? I feel there is a need to be concerned over this whole project, just what Block level is the global customers buying?

    • Block 4 will be the base standard for all operators of the F35.
      The US is the only full holder of the source code for the aircraft, so without doubt, some operators will have certain features redacted ( Nuclear delivery) or limited in capability, electronic attack features etc.

      One would hope, as a full partner, we will have full access and capability.

        • Evening Maurice, well yes in a word, but its coming right. When the UK has block 4 ( full release of foreign weapons) and electronic attack capability, we will have a seriously capable platform.
          A British F35 with ASRAAM, Meteor, SPEAR 3 etc combined with its other capabilities, will be a world beating platform.

          • To add to this, I wouldn’t split the order. I would keep it all F35B and add Carrier borne AAR.

            Just thinking out loud, but I wonder if a Commando Merlin HC4, would be capable of acting as a tanker?

            It can fly fast enough, it has the ramp, I wonder if it could carry a worthwhile fuel load and the AAR gear in the back?

  6. It’s nothing new sadly. I remember reading a story years ago about Typhoon in one of the tabloid rags (doesn’t really matter which one it would seem) which said the whole programme had been cancelled. This was after the first RAF squadron was operational !

  7. Evening all

    Bit of reality.
    Just been to Spectator event and last question of the evening was with reference to the 3% question.
    Answer – if you want to be taken seriously in the world (Global Britain) and with state actors (Russia) now the biggest threat the only way you can do that is by matching ambition with action.
    We may not get 3% in November but 2.5% is gaining traction.
    If you want consensus in the increase in defence spending I will ask you to watch the comments of Paul Mason last night – defence spending needs to be increased.
    UKDJ – now is your chance. You are writing the paper, involve the loyal blog (TH included, who is reasonable and logical in argument, but lacks the ambition of Global Britain).
    PS – Daily Express article is lazy. Platform is DB. Move on.

    • I hope with all my heart that you’re right and the brave lads and lasses in our armed forces get that 0.5% budget hike so we can finally start to grow our capabilities again for the first time in decades

      Now the UK is running at a budget surplus, I think it only right that more investment is allocated to defence expenditure so the government can walk the walk AND talk the talk when it comes to post-Brexit ‘Global Britain’

  8. “You cannot hope
    to bribe or twist,
    thank God! the
    British journalist.
    But, seeing what
    the man will do
    unbribed, there’s
    no occasion to.” Hubert Woolfe

    • I wonder whether the software costs include flight hours necessary for live testing. Any conventional commercial software development budget will (or at least should) include costs for alpha and beta testing and I assume that the F-35 software development cycle does, probably as part of beta testing, include live testing on real flying aircraft rather than simply pushing the next block out to all of the active aircraft out there. Since a lot of the later blocks are weapons integration I also wonder whether the budget line there might be a bit blurred in terms of where the test firing costs get allocated. I have no idea, just throwing out a few possible at least partial explanations for the high costs quoted.

  9. I’m not anti-capitalist but I don’t think this is malicious or any conspiracy, I think that we’re seeing one of the downsides of capitalism in action.

    We have newspapers and other media who are struggling to compete, make a profit and stay in business so they are desperate for sensationalist content. They (especially the newspapers) also have a lot of poorly paid staff (there’s the profit bit again) at the coal face who simply don’t understand the first thing about the areas they are supposed to be reporting on(*). Put the desire for a juicy story together with staff who don’t have the knowledge to sanity-check it, and probably add to that an attitude that now puts factual accuracy below how many clicks they can get before they have to take down an article and maybe issue some lame retraction weeks later, and we end up with crap like this. The real tragedy is that, while we know enough to detect the BS, the general public ends up being totally misinformed.

    (*) For a number of years in my IT career a part of my job was talking to the press so I have seen the lack of print journalists’ knowledge of their supposed subject area first hand on many occasions , at least for the IT industry.

  10. another example of sloppy sensational so called journalism inflicted on an unknowing Public. The sheer incompetence of such writers is beyond the Pale, and blame the editors as well. Another example just a couple of days ago , and I cant remember which journal quoted it was re the Falklands War” When HMS Sheffield was sunk the loss of another Carrier eg aircraft would have resulted in defeat”
    As we know Sheffield was a destroyer ,
    One despairs that these Scribblers are in a job
    But as with Football managers they will all ways get another job

    • So many examples. Another I remember, it forget from which conflict but think it might have been when Trump authorised an attack after Syrian chemical weapons use, was reading about how the US aircraft carrier “Arleigh Burke” had launched the cruise missile attack. Sigh!

  11. Where’s Desmond Wettern when you need him!
    The Daily Express has always been somewhat strident to say the least. Under Beaverbrook’s control and then his son Max Aitken, factual accuracy was never their strongpoint.
    The last few years have seen it sink to considerably lower depths.
    It is a factual irrelevance but that is lost on the their readership.

    Best thing about The Daily Express was the contrasting viewpoint regularly promulgated by (Carl) Giles. Credit where it’s due to Beaverbrook, for bringing that contrary opinion to the paper.

    UKDJ seems to be very hard to add comments to today- have the Ruskies uploaded a virus to it?

  12. Come on, thus is such a non story…….the express is more comic than newspaper. If you tot up all the Armageddon weather reports alone, we should all be dead by drowning, our houses blown away and the decaying remains of our country buried under 20feet of snow and ice……

  13. We used to see what BS story would get in the press when they were eavesdropping in Afghan. Bit risky but a lot of fun, especially when they actually did some background checks and had a right go at us.
    The F35 story sounds like they were eavesdropping again and only heard part of the story.

  14. The daily express now owned by the left wing mirror group … So I think you can expect many more false express stories from this paper to try and destroy the good name of our armed forces ..

  15. My dear old dad used to read the Express back in the 80’s and it appeared to be a decent middle of the road rag at the time. I stumbled across the Express online only recently and was shocked by the sensationalism, conspiracy theories and sheer sub-standard reporting I witnessed. This latest “fake news” story regarding the F35 just goes to prove how far this rag has gone down the tubes into oblivion. I live overseas in the Middle East and I am extremely proud of our fantastic armed forces and how they are viewed in high esteem in this region. Go UK PLC!!

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