The delivery of the RAF’s new, US-built F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter in July 2021  marked a rare moment of celebration in what has been a troubled project.

Although it is still the most expensive weapon system on earth, the “fifth generation” fighter aircraft has finally stabilized at $406 billion.

After President Donald Trump had criticized the project, Lockheed-Martin offered to limit costs and tweeted his support for another aircraft. 

Britain is currently embarked on a £9.1billion programme to purchase 48 of the F-35s, from American aviation giant Lockheed Martin, by 2025.

One of the first four F-35B Lightning II aircraft arrives at RAF Marham in Norfolk on June 6, 2018

On June 6, 2018, one of four F-35B Lightning II planes arrives at RAF Marham, Norfolk.

America offered input to the manufacture of the aircraft and encouraged its NATO allies to share the costs. 15% of each jet is made from parts supplied by British companies, while others will be manufactured in Italy.

The planes are still plagued with a variety of problems that has caused high costs.

It is possible that the technology underpinning this new generation of warplanes could fail, causing them to not function correctly.

The true cost of the British planes delivered this year is estimated to be over £150million each to cover ‘extras’ such as software upgrades and spare parts.

The software of the aircraft’s computer system could also be at risk from cyber attacks. This cannot be verified independently by the UK.

It is also hindering the aircraft’s capabilities due to the weak internet connection on HMS Queen Elizabeth, the principal Royal Navy aeroplane carrier.



The problems are not helped by the department responsible for the computer networks essential to the aircraft’s operation needs to find savings of £400 million this year.

After receiving reports on the cost and other issues, the Defence Select Committee launched an investigation into the project.

The Ministry of Defence was reprimanded for keeping Parliament and the public ignorant about costs.

The MoD has so far refused to provide the estimated cost to the UK of buying the F-35, beyond referring to a National Audit Office which used the £9.1billion figure.

MPs stated that it was unacceptable for the MoD not to reveal to Parliament and the Public its total costs for the program.



Although the F-35 cost is the focal point of attention, it has also led to embarrassing reports about operational issues in the United States.

The cutting-edge plane lost in a 2015 mock air battle to an F-16 of a different generation, which was built in the 1970s.

The Pentagon found 276 faults in the combat system of jet fighters during 2020 tests.

These included excessive vibrations from the 25mm cannon and issues with the aircraft’s virtual reality helmet.

These issues included overheating, premature wear in vertical tails components and vulnerability to fire.

While it investigates an oxygen supply problem, the US Air Force temporarily grounded many of its F-35 stealth aircrafts.

The Marine Corps, who also operate the same F-35B model the UK has purchased, was forced to ground its planes after flaws were found in the  computer system.