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.”