A Defence Select Committee report has slammed the MoD response to requests for clarification on key issues including cost and demands six monthly updates on the F-35 programme.

Julian Lewis MP, chairman of the committee said:

“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. However, it is precisely because this project is so important that it must be subjected to the closest possible scrutiny.”

The report says:

“The Committee views the MoD’s failure to provide adequate cost estimates, either on an overall programme basis or on a per-aircraft basis, as wholly unsatisfactory. It amounts to an open-ended financial commitment which can be quantified only in retrospect.

We understand that the Lot-by-Lot procurement process for the aircraft, allied with the separate processes for procuring parts and spares and logistical support, make it difficult to calculate the total cost whether on a per-aircraft or on a programme-as-a-whole basis. However, it is simply not acceptable for the Ministry of Defence to refuse to disclose to Parliament and the public its estimates for the total cost of the programme, and to suggest instead that we must wait until the mid-2030s (when all 138 F-35 have been procured) to be able to work out a full unit cost for each aircraft, once spares and upgrades are included.

The lack of transparency over the costs of the F-35 is unacceptable and risks undermining public confidence in the programme. The Department should provide us with the ‘rough orders of magnitude’ it claims to possess for the total costs of the F-35 programme beyond 2026/7.”

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Joe Bloggs
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Joe Bloggs

Rough orders of magnitude?!??!?!?!?!?!?!? Do these people understand anything?!?!?!?!!?
By that logic the Mod can’t be wrong if they quote that a single F35B would cost somewhere between 12.3m and 1,223m

David Steeper
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David Steeper

Um i’d guess that the price will be whatever Lockheed Martin tells us it is. Someone explain to me again why we thought it would be any different ?

Pacman27
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Pacman27

Clear example of why the MOD needs to be governed by the defence select committee and NAO.

Senior leaders need to be sacked for this kind of activity.

We should know the precise cost of each of these aircraft for each tranche and have fairly good estimates for follow on tranches, this can all be modelled to give a fairly accurate (say +/- 10%) cost profile.

Simply not good enough and whilst I understand this is a new and complex programme, the high risk part is over and we are in production which can be modelled extremely accurately.

Must do better

David Steeper
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David Steeper

About every decade since the 50’s there is a review which states the MoD has identified the problems with procurement and ‘they have been addressed’ The same thing will happen over the next few months and we should set as much store by it as by all the others that have gone before.

Ron5
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Ron5

So what’s the exchange rate going to be in 2027?

FrankLT
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FrankLT

Tell them to come back in a month & if they’re unable to provide the details reasonably requested they’ll be sacked!

There must be cheaper alternatives for 90% of operations. But I suppose the powers that have portfolio shares in these defence corporations are also in or behind HMG, so they’ll keep screwing the taxpayer just as seems to be Tory practice. For the few not the many, but keep that to yourselves.

David Stephen
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David Stephen

Not sure what the fuss is. The unit flyaway cost is provided and the neccessery software upgrades and retrofitting of equipment has not yet been done so can’t be properly costed. The after flyaway costs will become a bit clearer in a few years once we start performing the software upgrades and using the aircraft to see how many spares and how often they are required, that being said an estimate would be nice.