A Defence Committee report has examined the allegations made by The Times in its investigation into the F-35 programme and has compiled a list of recommendations.

The committee say that their report has drawn on the work of other studies into the programme, such as the 2016 Annual Report of the US Department of Defense’s Director of Operational Test and Evaluation, and on the oral and written evidence they have gathered over the course of the inquiry, including from both Lockheed Martin and the Ministry of Defence.

Overall, the report concludes that:

The MoD’s acknowledgement of the potential value of using the Multifunctional Advanced Data Link (MADL) for secure communications between the F-35 and legacy aircraft is welcome. Without such a link and translation node, the UK will be underusing one of the key capabilities of the F-35 and we recommend that the MoD make provision for the procurement of a gateway translation node for MADL-based F-35 to Typhoon communication (Emphasis added throught—Ed.) in the next Equipment Plan. 

The broadband capacity on the Queen Elizabeth carriers will need to be beyond the reported limit of 8 megabits, and, in all likelihood, in excess of the 32 megabits currently available on the USS America, if the potential benefits of the F-35 to the UK’s future carrier strike capabilities are to be realised. 

The assurances from Lockheed Martin and the MoD about the rigorous level of cyber-testing of the ALIS software are welcome, as is the assurance from Lockheed Martin that the UK will have complete and unfettered use of the software for the sovereign operation of our F-35 fleet. However, we ask for greater clarity from Lockheed Martin on the level of protection in place for the technical data gathered by ALIS in relation to the UK’s F-35 fleet, including whether this data falls within the US Government’s ‘unlimited rights license’. 

The MoD’s failure to provide adequate cost estimates for its procurement of the F-35, either on an overall programme basis or on a per-aircraft basis, is wholly unsatisfactory and this unacceptable lack of transparency risks undermining public confidence in the programme. We recommend that the Department provides us with the ‘rough orders of magnitude’ it claims to possess for the total costs of the programme beyond 2026/7. 

The F-35 has clearly experienced a number of software and hardware problems during its development phase, as might be expected from a project of this scale and technical complexity. 

However, The Times’s investigation has provided cause for concern and these concerns were not alleviated by the disappointing nature of the initial responses from Lockheed Martin and the MoD. 

During our inquiry, we received a number of assurances from the Government and Lockheed Martin that the issues with the programme that have been previously identified either have been, or are in the process of being, resolved. For the time being, we are willing to accept these assurances. 

The F-35 is a major investment in defence capability for the UK and we want it to succeed and become the cornerstone of a new and effective strike capability for this country. However, it is precisely because this project is so important that it must be subjected to the closest possible scrutiny. 

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.”

Click here to read the full conclusions and recommendations section of the report.

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Geoffrey Roach

Well done. It is becoming more vital every day that each project for the M O D achieves maximum potential at the best possible cost.

Daniele Mandelli

I agree Geoffrey.
I’d only caution that what the DSC recommends is not often acted on by the MoD.
We can hope they take heed. MoD badly needs to get it’s act together.

Pacman27

They need some teeth I would really like to see a pre-defined % of GDP be ring fenced by law (as is the case for Foreign aid) and for a cross party DSC provide oversight and scrutiny over this budget to ensure continuity of spending priorities, political commitment no matter what government is in power and to act as a balancing force between what the government of the day wants to achieve and the capabilities and funding required to do this. This would mean the Defence committee becomes the custodian of defence and the Minister for defence has the operational… Read more »

passerby

I do not see other people in other countries blaming their “foreign aid” departments. Why no one blaming Dutch, Nordic, French, German, Australian, Kiwi and best US Foreign Aid the largest donor in terms of budget? Blame only DFID you stupid Brits!

Chris

Pacman27 – I agree with your % notion of it being decided by Parliament and enacted as is the DFID budget. But I do have to gently point out some issues with your ideas on the DSC. The DSC is already a cross party committee that reflects the constituent party numbers in the House of Commons within its members. It is one of the strengths of the Select Committee system. To somehow turn its scrutinising brief into some executive role actually goes against Parliamentary Sovereignty. The Executive (Government) makes the decisions and carries out policies according to (initially) its election… Read more »

Pacman27

Chris

I agree with your comments and am not suggesting the CDSC takes over decisions on an operational level. What I am suggesting is oversight with Teeth and an intermediary between the constant over commitment of resources allied to underfunding and poor management.

We need something that involves long term planning, budgeting and commitment and I think a new way of doing things may work.

The trick will be to get the long term governance and budgets in place whilst ensuring government has the ability to use the force as it sees fit within clearly defined parameters.

Chris

Pacman27 – I think we have that with the Chiefs of Staff who should be performing that role of making sure the political people don’t over commit or under fund the Forces. Yes they are ‘vested interests’ but they are the military specialists whose job it will be to fight the wars. The role of the SoS is to fight the political wars in the trenches of Westminster and Whitehall to meet the criteria of the Chiefs of Staff. Maybe THAT is where the teeth need placing. Not more teeth in the hands of a diverse politicians.

Pacman27

Chris Understood, but I dont think they are doing their jobs unfortunately and it has become all too comfortable. Brigadiers and above should be banned from working within the defence industry upon retirement or leaving the force. And it is clear that its all just a bit too cosy – just look at what commodore peach has said upon leaving his current post, but not a word previously, same for Zambellas. We need something more – each year the NAO and DSC give the MOD a kick in, and each year they are (mostly) ignored. The US system would seem… Read more »

passerby

UK should just have one single force filled with nuclear weapons.

Mr Bell

Agree defence budget should be declared in law like foreign aid and increased to 3% immediately with a transition to 4% over the next 5-6 years.
Also remove nuclear deterrent costs from defence budget that should sit in its own budget funded directly by central government.
Has defence budget ever been uplifted since Osbourne’s ” creative accounting” when he moved nuclear deterrent into core defence budget? Answer is no!