Critics of the F-35B would be ‘silenced very quickly’ if they realised how powerful the aircraft were according to Squadron Leader Andy Edgell.

It’s no secret that the F-35 has had severe cost and schedule issues. The F-35 programme has gone through serious teething problems, problems also experienced by the majority of complex aircraft flying today such as the F-15, Typhoon or any other modern combat jet.

The biggest issue for the project continues to be the fact it is the most expensive military weapons system in history owing to the sheer scope of the programme but that being said, aircraft costs are now coming down and will soon be similar to the cost of many aircraft it’s replacing.

Today the programme is maturing rapidly, right now much of the activity around the jet is dealing with software bugs and testing to validate the software, with most of the physical testing being to do with weapons integration and the gradual scaling up of capabilities that comes with each new software block.

Squadron Leader Andy Edgell said:

“It would be utterly nonsensical to not purchase and design and develop the F-35 and have it as our core staple ingredient forming our airpower.

It is an incredibly, incredibly powerful aircraft and I am not talking about thrust, the capabilities it brings to the battle space – it is incredibly powerful.

The disappointing thing is I can’t share all the details… I do think a lot of the critics would be quietened very quickly.

You very quickly realise when flying the F-35 that is an enjoyable task when you come back to the aircraft carrier. Flying the Harrier back to the carrier, now that was a handful.”

Earlier in the month he said:

She’s marvellous. She has an incredible amount of thrust but it’s more than just brawn that makes her so fantastic to fly – it’s the brains behind her as well.

She’s a masterful piece of engineering and it makes her so effortless to fly. It’s impossible not to be exhilarated every time. She’s a beast when you want her to be and tame when you need her to be. She’s beautiful.

The launch of the F35s from the HMS Queen Elizabeth is a once in a generation historical event. To be the first to fly off the carrier, to have a front row seat, would be an absolute privilege. It wouldn’t just be about the pilot – there are hundreds of people who have been working tirelessly behind the scenes to make this happen and the honour will be theirs too.”

38 COMMENTS

  1. £9bn buys 48 F35B, that’s a lot of cash.

    But a 5th generation combat aircraft doesn’t come cheap.

    People who say the cost of a F35 is falling have about as much credibility as Fallon saying the RN is getting bigger.

    • Mike – they are £100m each, the other costs for the first 48 are setting up the infrastructure, building new buildings (which are long overdue anyway) and testing etc. These are sunken costs to moving to a new fleet. Dont think it is totally fair to say 48 planes = £9bn as this isn’t strictly true.

      However they are expensive, but they do give the UK something we have never had and I for one am fairly happy with the F35B.

      • The £9bn figure for 48 F35B comes from UK MOD as presented to the UK defence committee recently.

        Of course it includes one off fixed costs, but the real cost of buying additional F35s will be about 20% cheaper so around £150m each.

        Total cost of procuring 138 F35 is going to be in the region of £21bn.

        • £9Bn – only £5Bn is clearly set aside for the F35 programme including set up costs and the first 48 Aircraft.

          • Stephen Lovegrove, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Defence ” As you know, what we do in terms of formal budgeting in the MOD is every year look 10 years ahead. So the 10 years that we have got now are obviously lasting up to 2026-27. That is the period over which we have estimated the costs with a degree of precision and about which we are very confident that the F-35 programme will come under. The total cost in that, as set out in the NAO report, was about £9.1 billion. That includes the 48 aircraft. It also includes all the support and spares. It includes the training and the very substantial and long-lived investment in infrastructure at Marham and elsewhere. And that is the total cost for the next 10 years.”

            http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/defence-committee/f35-procurement/oral/71431.html

    • Exactly, the f35 is also as manoeuvrable as a flying brick. The Russians also are close to being able to detect the f35 with multi frequency radar. That means the f-35 would be useless as it would be no good in a dog fight and all air to air combat with enemies that have modern jets end switch dogfights because the enemy has flare and chaff.

    • Mr Saul
      You seem to have changed your views signifiantly. On October 11, you posted ….
      “Why buy a 4th generation aircraft when you can buy a 5th generation aircraft for less cost.”
      Above you now say, “But a 5th generation combat aircraft doesn’t come cheap.”

      Your statement above. “People who say the cost of a F35 is falling have about as much credibility as Fallon saying the RN is getting bigger.” is quite a change of tune.

      On October 13, To recap. I was presenting data that revealed the NAO revealed the project cost of a Typhoon had been finalised at £107m and the unit cost asking price for current export had fallen to £87m.

      After saying “you are just manipulating numbers to try and support your arguement.” May I remind you of your next statement ….. “There have many articles on this website regards the cost of F35, the only conclusion one can draw from those articles is that the F35 will be cheaper to procure than a Typhoon.”

      Personally, I do not believe a single word that is released about the cost or performance of the F-35. Given the sheer number of negative reports about the F-35 I think it is foolhardy to abandon Typhoon development and bet the house on the veracity of American reports. The RAF will tow the party line. If, I do stress, IF, the Syrians did nearly shoot down an Israeli F-35i, with an S200 then the whole project may collapse like a House of Cards.

  2. It’s odd how the angle of the ASRAAM doesn’t match the angle of the missile rail.

    It must have kicked out a bit when launched.

      • Trolling or just inept?

        Weapons testing, as is *very* obviously going on in the above image, involves testing weapons release at extreme AOA, at maximum force, in order to gauge to the full extent, the limits of how an aircraft can safely release weapons while performing extreme manoeuvres.

        Given the above, if you’re even faintly aware of how air moves around an aerodynamic surface flying at speed, nothing about this image should surprise you.

      • I suspect that the ASRAAM is dropped from the pylon a short time before it’s engine fires up to prevent damage to the aircraft and it’s stealth coatings, so I would not expect it to align with the pylon rail.

  3. Back in 2000 the US DOD told us that the F35 would be around US$40m each and projected to be half the cost of a F18E, this was the main reason the USMC did not procure the F18E to replace it’s F18Cs and the USAF stopped production of the F22.

    Unfortunately that turned out to be hopeless miscalculation.

    The F35 is a very complex aircraft, it is neither going to be cheap to buy or operate.

    • It was a very different plane and programme back then.
      It was never originally intended to be the most advanced fighter aircraft ever created.

      That said, $40m in 2000 dollars would be quite a lot more nowadays.

      • Why do think it’s a very different project back then?

        Of course when inflation is applied to the Us$40m other will be higher let us say US$60m

        • For one the variants were a lot closer together in terms of design. Second smart weapons have become ever more prevalent and only a few countries use the exact same aresenal as the US slowing down integration and blowing out costs. Third the USN and USAF slowed both the development program and production to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

          • Inflation would make it $57m, half the current stated cost by LM ($130m) and almost 25% of the actual whole life cost of $200m (£150m as given by MoD in parliament)

          • 1. That is true, the project was misconceived at the begining.
            2. Any customer that requires non US weapons have to pay for the privilege.
            3. Not sure you can blame escalating costs on war.

            The project offered much at the beginning, unfortunately the reality of developing the hardware and software was grossly underestimated.

            If they knew in 2001 what we know now, the project would have been cancelled and new solutions found.

  4. This is an example of why we still have a world class military, despite cuts.

    With all the moaning about F35 and the Carriers, the UK will be one of the few nations with the capability of 5th Generation Fighters and Carrier Aviation.

    If these assets were not in the pipeline and we were making do with Tornado for the next 20 years while other nations bought advanced aircraft people would also be moaning.

    We chose STOVL carriers, this is the aircraft, and the RN and RAF will make it work.

    • They’re going to need to call it STOVSL as they’re working on beng able to land the F35-Bs still fully laden with payload, with just a short landing run (if I have that right).

      Back in around 2013 I didn’t like the F35, it seemed to me to be compromising performance and agility just for the sake of being a 5th Gen. Clearly they’ve sorted out the problems.

    • Well bloody said, I’m sick to death with all the nay Sayers and whingers, we are where we are and let’s move on.

      • The benefits to UK mentioned here, in supplying parts and avionics, also apply to other F35 partners who build other components.
        For instance Turkey will now have a significant capability to build and compete with UK built engines.
        The problem with splitting up workshare is that overall everyone is better off but no-one has an advantage or benefit, or have all the lessons from Euro-projects like Milan and Tornado being conveniently forgotten?

  5. Point completely missed by some… The UK is arguably the greatest beneficiary of this project. We build the aft centre section fuselage and numerous other parts as a tier 1 partner. This employs thousands of jobs in the UK and will do for many years in the future and each aircraft is roughly the same cost as a Typhoon. With all the future exports and modifications, support etc. I honestly believe there is a possibility we will break even. And we get a great aircraft as well!

    • Based on no evidence at all and contracted by MoD in Parliament evidence, but optimism will always get us through when stubborn reliance on facts, plans and details give us the answers we don’t like.

    • Mr Southern, We get assemble the arse ends as a Tier 1 partner.
      Italy, a Tier 2 partner, after threatening withdrawal got the only complete assembly plant outside the US, plus the the main regional major maintenance facility for Europe. Marham will perform basic maintenance for RAF aircraft but all major work for RAF jets will be at Cameri in Italy.
      Turkey, a tier 3 partner, employed similar threats and extracted the only European major engine overhaul facility and also I believe the only carbon fibre fabrication plant.
      So the UK as a Tier 1 will have to have its F35 engines overhauled in Turkey and other major maintanence peformed in Italy. Marham gets to check the oil and water and trye pressures.

  6. So everyone is happy that the engines are sent to Turkey for repair, rather than in UK?

    That the MoD was unable to state the program cost beyond 10 years, could state that it would not impact on any other defence program, yet admitted that they did not know the whole life cost.

    That the current and planned bandwidth for QEIi was insufficient to run ALIS, and that US tests running four times the capacity had led to mission fails.

    That sharing data with other platforms in the UK compromises the F35 mission, and that plans to fit MADL to Typhoon had only started to be looked at in the last few months.

    That the capabilities to truly exploit the brains of F35 had not been bought or planned in program costs, like MADL fitting or increased QEII bandwidth, yet no impact on other programs would occur.

    That support costs according to the GAO were out of control, with no clear understanding of total cost available, as confirmed by both LM and MoD as they gave evidence to parliament.

    That LM stated that they did not need to explain the benefits of F35 in public, and that doing so would only increase criticism of the program, clearly believing that it’s fake news.

    The F35 is an incredible aircraft, but we are not planning to fully exploit its capabilities due to budget pinching and that we have not been honest with the true cost to operate in order to get it on the books.

    Yes we will have an incredible aircraft, but at what cost to other defence capabilities?

  7. we built a stovl carrier, which means our options are the f35b or f35b. As such considering the options available, it is the cheapest one. Once we decided to go back down the carrier path, cost of the jets is a sunk cost, no point trying to argue they are good or bad priced, the price is the price.

  8. Inflation would make it $57m, half the current stated cost by LM ($130m) and almost 25% of the actual whole life cost of $200m (£150m as given by MoD in parliament)

  9. So everyone is happy that the engines are sent to Turkey for repair, rather than in UK?

    That the MoD was unable to state the program cost beyond 10 years, could state that it would not impact on any other defence program, yet admitted that they did not know the whole life cost.

    That the current and planned bandwidth for QEIi was insufficient to run ALIS, and that US tests running four times the capacity had led to mission fails.

    That sharing data with other platforms in the UK compromises the F35 mission, and that plans to fit MADL to Typhoon had only started to be looked at in the last few months.

    That the capabilities to truly exploit the brains of F35 had not been bought or planned in program costs, like MADL fitting or increased QEII bandwidth, yet no impact on other programs would occur.

    That support costs according to the GAO were out of control, with no clear understanding of total cost available, as confirmed by both LM and MoD as they gave evidence to parliament.

    That LM stated that they did not need to explain the benefits of F35 in public, and that doing so would only increase criticism of the program, clearly believing that it’s fake news.

    The F35 is an incredible aircraft, but we are not planning to fully exploit its capabilities due to budget pinching and that we have not been honest with the true cost to operate in order to get it on the books.

    Yes we will have an incredible aircraft, but at what cost to other defence capabilities?

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