back to article F-35B Block 4 software upgrades will cost Britain £345m

Britain will spend £345m ($486m) upgrading its F-35B fighter jets to the most recent, combat-ready, version of the aircraft’s operating system. The figure was indirectly revealed by defence procurement minister Guto Bebb, in response to a Parliamentary question. “The UK’s contribution will be around 4.5 per cent of F-35 …

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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    They're bringing 617 back ?

    Everybody with a dam dust off your flak !

    1. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

      Re: They're bringing 617 back ?

      Don't know what they've been doing lately, but they were flying those big beautiful Vulcans for many years.

      1. EvilDrSmith

        Re: They're bringing 617 back ?

        Went from Vulcans to Tornados. Disbanded as a Tornado squadron when??? can't remember, but quite recently, as a prelude to reforming with F35.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: They're bringing 617 back ?

          ...but can an F35 (any variant) carry a bouncing bomb? The aiming and altitude problems are already solved with a couple of torches and a coat hanger :-)

  2. Clive Galway
    WTF?

    27% of the value for a software upgrade?

    Did I get my maths wrong?

    £345m on 15 airframes = £23m per aircraft.

    Current value is £85m, so 27% of the value of the aircraft to upgrade it to fighting capability?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: 27% of the value for a software upgrade?

      Did I get my maths wrong?

      Nope, and neither did Lockheed Martin. You're probably thinking "wow, that would be three and a half thousand man years of effort, that can't be right?"

      But those figures are the price the customers will pay, not the input cost to LM. As usual, the original bid was a loss leader, in the certain knowledge that vast profits could be creamed on all the variations. It isn't as though the buyers can get anybody else to do the work with any hope of success (look what happened when the Clowns of Abbey Wood decided to meddle with the flight control software of the Chinook Mk3).

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: 27% of the value for a software upgrade?

      "Current value is £85m, so 27% of the value of the aircraft to upgrade it to fighting capability?"

      Limited fighting capability.

      You can bet a lot of functions won't be working on that software release.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    There's lots of money to be made from garbage

    Ask anyone with access to a hole in the ground.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: There's lots of money to be made from garbage

      Is this before or after landing?

      (The year of Linux on the F-35 when?)

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    $£$

    trebles all round?

  5. Ken 16 Silver badge
    Holmes

    The most expensive thing in the world

    Is traditionally held to be its 2nd best air force.

    I'd assume Britain will remain in the top 10 and won't have to fight the US, is out of range of China and not at war with France (unless Rees-Mogg becomes PM). I can't see a direct war with Russia happening so it would be fighting Russian proxies in minor wars and the squadron of F-35's would probably come home safely against the squadron of MiG's or Sukhois that Moscow would donate when things kicked off which would be the main decider on whether to deploy them in the first place.

    It makes a kind of sense if the UK government intend to keep getting involved in these things. Alternatively if they ploughed all the money into buying Hawk/Goshawk variants they could increase the number of pilots, hours flown and people working in aerospace.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The most expensive thing in the world

      I can't see a direct war with Russia happening

      But as a defence planner you wouldn't be able to use that as a planning assumption. Or you could, but you wouldn't be a very good defence planner.

    2. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: The most expensive thing in the world

      minor wars and the squadron of F-35's would probably come home safely against the squadron of MiG's or Sukhois

      They are not donating those any more. All recent donations are S300 with S400 and S500 donations in the queue. Any discussion of aircraft have been strictly sale or lease at nominal value. The days when Brezhnev gave the Arabs whole squadrons of Migs are long gone.

      If they will be facing S300 or S400 some of those F35s will probably not make it home. They are not THAT stealthy.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The most expensive thing in the world

        >The days when Brezhnev gave the Arabs whole squadrons of Migs are long gone

        Old joke: Why did the Soviets give the Arabs so many aircraft?

        A; The Israelis needed something to practise shooting down.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: The most expensive thing in the world

          Old joke: Why did the Soviets give the Arabs so many aircraft?

          Oldie but Goldie.

          Here is a real one from a participant (not saying which country he is from). When the Israeli launched Mole Cricket 19 to clear the Syrians from the Beqaa valley they managed to take out ALL Syrian SAM sites in one day. Except one.

          The one which was not yet handed over to the Arabs and had instructors from the Warsaw pact country (not USSR) doing the hand over.

          It was not taken out because the head of the handover team immediately figured out what is going on and forced the issue for the site to relocate to the backup position.

          In order to do that, he had to shoot at the ground in front of the feet of the Arabs so they f*** move instead of sleeping on the job. As a result the site relocated and was the only one the Israeli's did not take out. However, the Syrians took offense and got the team "evicted". With the expected result - that battery was taken out next day.

          So the official lesson taken away by the Warsaw pact from the Becaa valley engagement in 1982 was completely different from the bollocks in Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Mole_Cricket_19

          It was "move or die". I had friends who caught the last 1-2 drafts in the same country before the fall of the wall and served in AAA. They were trained on the lessons from that and they have some unpleasant recollections (moving a SAM battery 4 times in a day is not a walk in the park).

          The other lesson is that whatever weapons you give to arabs they will still f*ck it up. Exactly as in the oldie but goldie.

          1. Solmyr ibn Wali Barad

            Re: Mole Cricket 19

            Yeah, I've also heard that story. With a slight difference - it was a prayer time, so locals refused to do anything else. Instructors had to tell them that they'll meet Allah very soon if they won't budge. Of course it didn't go down well.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Mole Cricket 19

              >With a slight difference - it was a prayer time, so locals refused to do anything else.

              Israel was attacked during Yom Kippur because that is an important day in the Jewish religious calendar. One should not be too surprised Israel returns the favour with high speed tickets to the afterlife being handed out during prayer times. Which is just how many times a day?

          2. Aitor 1

            Re: The most expensive thing in the world

            That also happened in the falklands.

            I remember reading about a howitzer battery that kept pounding british forces, and lasted a looong time before being hit.

            What they did is follow the instructions: shoot a couple of times, immediatly redeploy in order not to receive counter fire. Bad soldiers and leaders would stay in place.

    3. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      Re: The most expensive thing in the world

      unless Rees-Mogg becomes PM

      At which point he'll be demanding that the Froggies play fair and allow us to use longbows again..

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A wild guess

    that the cost of these aircraft would pay for every persons medical and education for 20 years if it wasn't spent on death machines for a war that will never happen?

    The cost of war during peace is just as high as war itself.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: A wild guess

      that the cost of these aircraft would pay for every persons medical and education for 20 years if it wasn't spent on death machines for a war that will never happen?

      I doubt that. The entire UK defence budget is about 40% of what is spent on health, and about a 70% of what is spent on education (and incidentally about 25% of the spend on welfare and pension benefits).

      Looking in a bit more detail, the US whole-life costs have been looked at even if MoD are too stupid to ask, and are reported at $1.5 trillion across 2,400 aircraft. That gives a cost per aircraft of $625m, which seems to pass a common sense test. Using today's rate of $1.40 that's around £450m per aircraft. The UK is thinking of ordering around 140, so that's a UK programme cost of £62bn. Given the current annual levels of education (£86bn) and health spending (£147bn), the entire fifty year whole-life cost of the UK F35 programme would pay for the health and education programme of the nation for a period of four months, so not quite twenty years.

      Even so, I think we'd both agree that £62bn appears only to buy us a vastly over-complicated, over expensive piece of foreign made crap.

      1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: A wild guess

        buy us a vastly over-complicated, over expensive piece of foreign made crap

        Indeed. When we have so much over-complicated, over-expensive home-made crap that they could buy!

        (Who was it said that it would have been cheaper to give every Westland employee a million quid and buy working helicopters from somewhere else?)

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: A wild guess

          Who was it said that it would have been cheaper to give every Westland employee a million quid and buy working helicopters from somewhere else?

          Might have been cheaper on that day, but then the makers shut up shop, the skills and capability is lost, and we have no choice but to buy foreign kit in future. And this happens very quickly, like when that smug toffee nosed twat Cameron cancelled Nimrod MRA4 and we then had to go grovelling to the Yanks to buy Boeing P8s a scant few years later.

          A large part of the argument for "cheaper off the shelf" isn't because we can't make something cost effectively, but because MoD come up with stupid ideas that make things cost ineffective. On MRA4 if was the criminally stupid idea of hand-crafting a load of new Nimrods rather than fitting the avionics into a commercial platform, such as an A321. And sadly the same applies when MoD buy foreign kit anyway - look at the shambles that is F35, or the Watchkeeper. That last one is particularly galling, because MoD took a $2m per ship Israeli drone from 20 years ago, and then managed to end up with bugger all working and still have a cost approaching £20m per airframe.

          1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

            Re: A wild guess

            And this happens very quickly, like when that smug toffee nosed twat Cameron cancelled Nimrod MRA4

            They could have built a maritime reconnaissance and patrol aircraft (with a possible early warning secondary function) out of A330 ten times for the amount of money spent on the Nimrod. The whole idea of rebuilding airframes (the new wings) of a 1960-es aircraft is criminal in its stupidity. It is a classic example of UK military procurement gone mad.

  7. Tom 7 Silver badge

    Thats a lot for an upgrade

    but a lot cheaper than a working upgrade.

    https://xkcd.com/1969/

  8. Steve Todd

    HOW many developers are they employing?

    I make that around 54,000 man-years, even assuming $200K per man average cost.

    1. Allonymous Coward

      Re: HOW many developers are they employing?

      It's government. 54,000 person-years is just the project meetings and procurement paperwork.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: HOW many developers are they employing?

      Don't forget the cost of deployment is 50% more. If you used a more likely man cost of $140k, and add in the deployment, we're talking about over 115,000 man years.

    3. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: HOW many developers are they employing?

      Main cost is testing. Not development.

      It is not dissimilar to any management system. While the "decision" modules are expensive, the real cost is in the testing especially if you have to test integration with things which cost tens to hundreds of thousands (some missiles).

  9. dnicholas Bronze badge

    But you said last week...

    "After we leave the EU we could cover that in a week with change to spare ... allegedly"

    Haha lol

  10. JLV Silver badge
    Mushroom

    Seems unacceptable for early adopters to have to pay so much for bugfixes on systems that are being sold while essentially still in beta (unkind souls might even say alpha).

    Witness the early block F35 that the USAF won't be able to upgrade.

    This is truly scandalous.

    Icon cuz that's what I would want to happen to that program. Skip to a 2030 timeframe gen 6.

  11. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Per Ardua Ad AI Strata. .... with Special Space Forces Servering Immaculate Source Intel Stations

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    Does the Royal Air Force have a Secure Cyber Space Control Fleet Air Arm ...... AIMaster Pilots on Special Virtual Manoeuvres with Grand AIMaster Pilots ...... Kindred Free SuperNatural Spirits Engaging and Entangling with Thoughts of Even Greater Grand AIMaster Pilots ..... and sharing IT all here too, for free ‽ .

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    Something for Mr Hammond to find Special Funding for Project Programming Controls, methinks, for RAF Cyber Space Command to Feed and Seed with Future Prime AIMoves.

    Hmmmm :-) .... Does that Present the Chancellor a Quandary Dilemma?

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Neoliberalism is not about defending the masses. Its about enriching the few. Virtually every function of government is now subservient to adding a series of zeros to about 60 people's bank accounts.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      When Smoking Man appears on your front porch...

      From the frowned-upon new-sites, we hear:

      On Monday, the Monmouth University Polling Institute released the results of a survey that found that “a large bipartisan majority… feel that national policy is being manipulated or directed by a ‘Deep State’ of unelected government officials…..

      According to the survey:”…6-in-10 Americans (60%) feel that unelected or appointed government officials have too much influence in determining federal policy. Just 26% say the right balance of power exists between elected and unelected officials in determining policy. Democrats (59%), Republicans (59%) and independents (62%) agree that appointed officials hold too much sway in the federal government. (“Public Troubled by ‘Deep State”, Monmouth.edu)

      The survey appears to confirm that democracy in the United States is largely a sham. Our elected representatives are not the agents of political change, but cogs in a vast bureaucratic machine that operates mainly in the interests of the behemoth corporations and banks. Surprisingly, most Americans have not been taken in by the media’s promotional hoopla about elections and democracy. They have a fairly-decent grasp of how the system works and who ultimately benefits from it. Check it out:

      “Few Americans (13%) are very familiar with the term “Deep State;” another 24% are somewhat familiar, while 63% say they are not familiar with this term. However, when the term is described as a group of unelected government and military officials who secretly manipulate or direct national policy, nearly 3-in-4 (74%) say they believe this type of apparatus exists in Washington.…Only 1-in-5 say it does not exist.” Belief in the probable existence of a Deep State comes from more than 7-in-10 Americans in each partisan group…”

      So while the cable news channels dismiss anyone who believes in the “Deep State” as a conspiracy theorist, it’s clear that the majority of people think that’s how the system really works, that is, “a group of unelected government and military officials…secretly manipulate or direct national policy.”

  13. M7S
    Joke

    North of five billion bucks for a box of encrypted USB sticks and a secure courier!

    I'm astonished, I've seen more realistic and reasonable prices being quoted on the stands at Infosec, which is saying something.

    Clearly Maplins had the right pricing but was in the wrong market sector.

  14. Schultz
    WTF?

    £7.67bn ($10.8bn) for software development

    Wow. Let's hope they don't pay the code by the line.

  15. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Peaceful Space Offering via Registered Channels on FreedD Air Ways

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    Methinks Fort Knox would be gladly drained for the Privileges such Advantage Commands with Prime Futures in Control, and at the Controls.

    Are future visitors here an alien species ........ and Special Air Sources doing TS/SCI MOD Work in Strange Works ...... https://forums.theregister.co.uk/forum/3/2018/03/22/f_35b_block_4_upgrades_cost_uk_345m/#c_3463768 ........ which Just Appear to Appear and Work Exceptionally Well.

    Or are they Far Distant Travellers Returned Enlightened with SMARTR Leads Following Future Directions with Virtual Instruction on Real Practical Leverage in Advantage Given and Received ....... A Mutually Satisfying Program which has all the advantages and disadvantages of being hooked and captured by the simplest of sweet temptations if you be so gifted and lucky :-)

    Man and Woman as One in Mutually Satisfying Spontaneous Orgasms has both Travelling Stellar Class to Other Space Places that Seed a Need and Feed that has to be Seen and Experienced to be Believed.

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    cc DARPA/Google Federal

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Does the quoted price include an engine?

    Or is this Lockheed Martin's odd convention of quoting a 'fly-ready' aircraft without an engine?

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