Is the F-35 a sensible solution to Britain’s defence needs?

October 15, 2010

The problem with the supersonic stealth jump-jet is that it has no internal gun, so needs a ventral pod. Experience from Vietnam points to the need to have a gun aboard a fighter as it will only carry four air-to-air missiles internally.
The B variant is only stressed to 7g, so it is not as agile as the A or the C. And, for such an expensive jet, it has only one engine, so in the event of engine failure or damage, the MOD will be writing off between £55,491,678 and £124,700,400 (at today’s price and conversion rate and depending on flyaway cost and variant). So if the MOD order (average mean cost at £90,096,039) 200 F-35Bs, then the total cost will be £18,019,207,800.
That’s 18 Billion! At flyaway costs, not counting any maintenance, upgrades, cost overruns or support infrastructure!

By contrast, the Typhoon F2 cost £45.46 million for each (Tranche 1) aircraft. So if the F-35B Lightning II comes in at £55 million per aircraft, then maybe. But 90 million? Or £124 million per aircraft? It had better be really good at that price! It would be more sensible for the RN to buy navalised Typhoons and share common parts with the RAF than buy the F-35.
If we were going to spend £95 million per aircraft, then we should have bought the F-22 Raptor, which at least is in service!