n July 2017, The Times conducted an investigation into the F-35 programme, in a report the Defence Select Committee has criticised the MoD response.
This investigation resulted in a number of serious allegations being levelled at the most expensive international defence programme in history. The report ‘Unclear for Take-Off? F-35 Procurement: Summary’ has sought to weigh the claims made by The Times against expert commentary, technical reports and the evidence of Lockheed Martin and the Ministry of Defence.
The report sternly remarks:
“It is disappointing that neither invested in a serious media and public relations effort to refute the claims made by The Times, relying instead on a letter to the editor of the paper (in the case of Lockheed Martin) and a rather dismissive letter and briefing circulated by the Government to Conservative MPs.”
The Times’s investigation, say the committee, 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.”
The F-35 programme will supply combat aircraft to nine countries, with the principal customer being the United States of America. The UK is the second biggest client and, as the sole ‘Tier One’ partner in the programme, 15% of all F-35 production will take place in the UK.