back to article Britain's new F-35s arrive in UK as US.gov auditor sounds reliability warning klaxon

Britain's first permanently based F-35B fighter jets have arrived at RAF Marham in Norfolk – as a US auditor warns that the aircraft won't be deemed "mature" until the year 2021. Four of the brand new supersonic stealth aircraft arrived at RAF Marham in Norfolk yesterday evening, having crossed the Atlantic nearly nine hours …

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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The Lightnings, as the F-35B will be known in British service, were accompanied on their flight by three RAF Airbus A330 tankers – one at the US end, with two more near the eastern North Atlantic – and an A400M Atlas transport aeroplane providing air-sea rescue cover.

    An all-Airbus support team to get the planes over the pond - not the best PR for a USA-ian company like Lockheed Martin.

    1. GnuTzu Bronze badge

      "not the best PR for a USA-ian"

      @anon... would have fine under more globalist times, but the pendulum swings, and point taken.

      1. steelpillow Silver badge
        Holmes

        Re: "not the best PR for a USA-ian"

        This is RAF jets being refuelled by RAF tankers (Airbus A330 MRTT, aka "Voyager"). US vs. EU meltdown it is not.

    2. PerlyKing
      Facepalm

      Re: An all-Airbus support team

      I'm going to assume that the tankers and SAR aircraft are existing RAF assets. Unless the contract includes full infrastructure support, which might make it seem a little less expensive!

    3. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      and an A400M Atlas transport aeroplane providing air-sea rescue cover.

      That is bigger news than the F35B flying over. If you think the F35B has been the white elephant of the century that means you have never had a look at this project.

      For the amount of money invested into that we could have bought Antonov, fired everyone except the designers, packed all of their factories and transported them to Bristol to build proper transport planes. Ones that work. Probably ~ 3 times. At least.

      1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge
        FAIL

        More than a 'White Elephant'

        It is the mega folly of the Century.

        The biggest military fail since... the last one... and the one before that. IMHO, it is as bad as the WW1 Generals sending troops over the top hoping to gain 10 yards.

        We will still be picking up the bill in 50 years.

        1. Tinslave_the_Barelegged Silver badge

          Re: More than a 'White Elephant'

          You missed the comment " other world-beating technologies". The RAF is war-planners are intent on taking on the entire planet. Unless he meant " other-world beating technologies" in which case the F35 is our last hope against the alien hordes.

        2. jgarbo
          Black Helicopters

          Re: More than a 'White Elephant'

          Give it time. Latest audit found only 996 flaws. Oh don't eject if the single (?) engine fails. The helmet will break your neck. Have a nice flight!

      2. TheDillinquent
        Thumb Up

        From Wikipedia:- John Gilbert, Britain's former Minister for Defence Procurement, stated in the British House of Lords "The A400M is a complete, absolute wanking disaster, and we should be ashamed of ourselves. I have never seen such a waste of public funds in the defence field since I have been involved in it these past 40 years."

  2. OssianScotland

    Lightning? That isn't a Lightning - too few engines, too slow and looks nothing like a proper Lightning!

    1. Korev Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      As a boy, I loved Jan Mark's book, Thunder and Lightnings. I remember my dad reading it to us.

      1. A. Coatsworth
        Thumb Up

        You British built some crazy and beautiful (and crazy-beautiful) planes back in the day.

        Sadly, I can't recall seeing a Lighting when I had the chance to visit the RAF museum near London, but standing under the shade of a Vulcan was definitely a highlight of my vacations!

        1. sitta_europea

          [quote]...standing under the shade of a Vulcan was definitely a highlight of my vacations![/quote]

          Here's me working on the last one flying...

          http://www.jubileegroup.co.uk/jpg/dsc01788.jpg

          :)

          1. A. Coatsworth
            Pint

            Damn you, sitta_europea, that is too cool!

            Have one on me

        2. John Miles

          re: Shade of a Vulcan

          Try standing under one in flight - https://imgur.com/a/lxyUK#zFElGV4

          1. werdsmith Silver badge

            Re: re: Shade of a Vulcan

            Try standing under one in flight

            Nice Anson!

        3. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

          Sadly, I can't recall seeing a Lighting when I had the chance to visit the RAF museum near London

          There was a Lightning when I visited a year or so ago. A little unusual as well, in that it's fitted with over-wing extended duration fuel tanks.

    2. Archtech Silver badge

      The real Lightning

      There will never be another true Lightning. Not a cockpit sitting on top of a jet engine, but a cockpit sitting on top of a jet engine sitting on top of a jet engine.

      That was a real man's fighter jet.

      1. macjules Silver badge

        Re: The real Lightning

        What I am saving up for - a trip to Cape Town to 'go vertical' in an EE Lightning. I would image that the F-35 would still be working out how to take off while it's namesake is already at 60,000ft.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: The real Lightning

          I recall an incident when one of the test Typhoons came up to RAF Leuchars in the early 2000s. The test pilot did a show and tell with a bunch of the old and bold aircrew from the base, which included an ex-Lightning mate. The ex-Lightning pilot asked how fast the Typhoon could get from a standing start to 30000ft, to which the Typhoon guy immediately came back with, "how fast could your Lightning do it". The Lightning pilot proudly proclaimed 2 minutes (IIRC). The Typhoon pilot replied, "We can do it in 1 minute 40s". He then paused for dramatic effect, "in dry heat".

          The original Lightning was a beautiful aircraft, with incredible ability for the day. But remembering the fact that once you've hit 60000ft you are almost out of fuel and looking to make a quick landing, I know what I would prefer to be fighting in today.

          The F35 might be much maligned, but it is still an incredible aircraft.

          1. RancidRodent

            Re: The real Lightning

            "how fast could your Lightning do it". The Lightning pilot proudly proclaimed 2 minutes (IIRC). The Typhoon pilot replied, "We can do it in 1 minute 40s". He then paused for dramatic effect, "in dry heat".

            TSR 2 with reheat on only one engine left a lighting for dead over forty years ago - progress eh?

      2. MrBanana

        Re: The real Lightning

        I think you mean:

        ...a cockpit sitting on top of a jet engine sitting on top of a jet engine sitting on top of a tray full of nuts and bolts that had fallen off.

        1. BoldMan

          Re: The real Lightning

          ...and a big bath of oil and assorted other fluids that had leaked out

    3. BuggerOff

      Also no gun. They should have named F-35 the Phantom, in memory of the last time we produced a "fighter" with no gun. That experiment lasted until it's first encounter with a MIG

      1. jgarbo

        Be kind...

        The Phantom F4 was the child of unmarried parents. The result of a one night stand. Have pity.

    4. Sanguma

      Lightning? That isn't a Lightning

      It would appear to be a sample of a Thunderstone

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thunderstone_(folklore)

      All we need now is for some sample of a PM to appear and pour beer over it (terrible waste, I know) and also anoint it with butter. And happy happy joy joy, the Slavs apparently believe they can cure warts!!! Putin will be oh so happy!!!

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I wonder...

    If I'll be able to make out their shape and identify them correctly around here. I assume they will fly over eventually. I even got a nice "quiet" walk interrupted by 4-6 practice bombing runs earlier this year. I'll take out some ear protectors next time I got for a walk!

    1. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

      Re: I wonder...

      After the last official flight of the Vulcan, I was in a huddle on a sports pitch pitch listening to the pre-match team talk bollocks and one flew about 100ft over our heads. It was amazing. I assume it was flying to the scrapyard.

      "Heads on! It's only a fucking plane" said the coach to the whole team who were staring at it. Bellend.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I wonder...

        "[...] and one flew about 100ft over our heads."

        In the late 1960s an air show at Wem announced that the English Electric Lightning was delayed. Lulled into a sense of mild disappointment the crowd were then immediately treated to its arrival at low level. Followed by a steep climb above our heads with afterburners glowing. The sound was gut wrenching.

        1. danwill

          Re: I wonder...

          While this has been some years ago, I'll tell a short tale of a young Boy Scout. Wright Patterson AFB in Dayton had a primitive camping area that they allowed Scout troops to use (on Base). There was also the "Wright-Patterson Trail for the Boys Scouts to hike and earn medals. I was on the trail which crossed close to the runways end, when 2 F-4s took off. They pulled the noses 90 degrees flipped on the afterburners continued onto their backs, flipped upright and was GONE. WHAT a RUSH (especially for a 10 or 12 year old boy)!

        2. ridley

          Re: I wonder...

          I remember walking along Spurn head* one day when a Lightning went past very close to the spit at really quite high speed.

          It was rather loud and very unexpected but what was most impressive was that I swear I looked DOWN into the cockpit.

          *Spurn head is a sand spit sticking out miles into the Humber estuary, technically the head is the end of the Spurn. The top of it is between 6-9m above sea level.

      2. Archtech Silver badge

        Re: I wonder...

        I once had a B-52 fly over my head, quite unexpectedly, at maybe 1,000 feet. It was bloody terrifying.

        1. Don MacVittie

          Re: I wonder...

          I grew up five miles straight off one of the runways for a B-52 base. We didn't notice them unless it was low enough to shake the house.

          1. werdsmith Silver badge

            Re: I wonder...

            One of the Lightning squadrons retired delivered their Lightnings to Cranfield. We were waiting. The leader decided that he was not leaving any fuel in his lighting pulled up into a vertical climb over the airfield with full reheat. Stunning, no babies were sleeping, birds all took flight and livestock was panicking in nearby fields.

            After that they were parked outside the hangars for months and we were able to virtually climb all over them.

          2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

            Re: I wonder...

            I grew up five miles straight off one of the runways for a B-52 base

            For a number of years we lived near Lyneham, directly under the approach flightpath for the Hercs. Until we blocked the chimney off, sometimes the noise was loud enough to drown out the TV..

            We could always tell when the newbies were doing circuits and bumps. For hours and hours..

      3. Archtech Silver badge

        Re: I wonder...

        Yeah, just like HMS "Warspite" which was wrecked on the way to a scrapyard. Some true lovers of great warships suggested that she had beached herself to avoid the final indignity.

        God forbid we would keep any of the magnificent artifacts to which we owe our freedom and survival.

    2. phuzz Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: I wonder...

      I was up at lake Windermere a few weeks ago and was treated to Typhoon flyover, and while it's obviously not in the same league as a Vulcan, they don't half make a racket when they're coming down the lake at minimum altitude! :)

      I'm pretty sure they were below whatever minimum altitude they're supposed to be sticking to as well, it felt like they were about 50m above our heads, which was bloody great :) The planes might have changed, but the pilots are still cut from the same cloth.

      1. MrBanana

        Re: I wonder...

        While travelling around the Scottish highlands a few years ago I stopped on the side of a road, running around the upper levels of a loch, to admire the view. Obviously a regular test route, two fighters snaked noisily through the valley at high speed. Were they at a low level? I was looking down on them.

  4. Mike Lewis

    What will happen during a war?

    What worries me about the F-35 is that we're having so much trouble with them under ideal conditions. What happens during a war when local factories have been bombed and international trade is disrupted so we can no longer get parts? Cannibalising broken planes to make a working one can only go so far and 3D printing of parts made from exotic high-temperature materials is not yet possible.

    1. Martin Gregorie Silver badge

      Re: What will happen during a war?

      ...if the F-35 logistics and maintenance management system in the US of A gets taken down with ransomware or a bot? Answer: F-35s will refuse to fly. Worldwide. Bugs in that system have already stopped them being flown while the bug was fixed.

    2. Adam 52 Silver badge

      Re: What will happen during a war?

      You could have said the same about Springfield Rifles or Spitfires.

      These days if we get to that point then everything will be turning to glass anyway.

    3. steelpillow Silver badge

      Re: What will happen during a war?

      For a home-front war on that scale, UK's published policy has long been to resort to nuclear retaliation. Our conventional forces are intended only for overseas deployment.

      It seems that the F-35's major role is intended to be as an airborne battlefield control centre cum escort fighter in charge of swarms of assorted droney things which do the actual ground-attack bit for it.

      1. Archtech Silver badge

        Re: What will happen during a war?

        Nuclear retaliation against whom? About 30 seconds thought would convince the stupidest of politicians that launching thermonuclear weapons - against anyone at all - could only make matters vastly, and suddenly, worse.

        1. steelpillow Silver badge

          Re: What will happen during a war?

          "Nuclear retaliation against whom? About 30 seconds thought would convince the stupidest of politicians that launching thermonuclear weapons - against anyone at all - could only make matters vastly, and suddenly, worse."

          Yes, that's why the policy is called Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD). Nobody would be mad enough to call our bluff -- or at least, so the theory goes. It is often credited with having staved off World War III and the nuclear holocaust during the Cold War, so who can argue with that?

          1. Ledswinger Silver badge

            Re: What will happen during a war?

            MAD....is often credited with having staved off World War III and the nuclear holocaust during the Cold War, so who can argue with that?

            Only people who've not observed the behaviours of glassy-eyed religious twats, or considered that small fat dictators might not care since they normally end up as a lamp post ornament, cornered in a bunker, or being beaten up on the bonnet of scabby old pick up truck?

          2. handleoclast Silver badge
            Coat

            Re: What will happen during a war?

            It is often credited with having staved off World War III and the nuclear holocaust during the Cold War, so who can argue with that?

            I use the same argument to justify my masturbation. I only do it so that WW III never happens. I'm getting old, though, and my libido is diminishing. One day in the near future, I shall stop. And then the thermonuclear shit will hit the fan. You mark my words.

            Or, to put it another way, there is no proof that MAD prevented WW III, only mere conjecture. It seems like a plausible conjecture, but there was a time the flat earth seemed plausible.

            1. GrumpyKiwi Silver badge

              Re: What will happen during a war?

              No proof... other than what came out of the opening of the Soviet archives in the 1990's that is. You know, the official records of the debates of the Politburo. In which is was acknowledged that the threat of MAD made going to war with the west a really bad idea.

              But hey, keep it going with the both the mental and the physical masturbation just in case.

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: What will happen during a war?

              Thanks for keeping us safe. You, like so many in secret services, will go unheralded but we appreciate your valour and sacrifice.

          3. Robert Brockway

            Re: What will happen during a war?

            There are a number of problems with MAD. Two that come to mind:

            (1) It presumes both belligerents are rational players.

            (2) It presumes that both are in command of sufficient accurate information to be able to make an informed decision.

            1. ridley

              Re: What will happen during a war?

              See Able Archer

              https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4cnrE6OhvZg

              Well worth watching, Cuban Missile Crisis had nothing on 1983, we came very, very close.

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