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 …

  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.

        2. handleoclast Silver badge

          Re: What will happen during a war?

          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.

          You appear to be the only El Reg commentard not to have heard of Amber Rudd.

    4. Archtech Silver badge

      Re: What will happen during a war?

      Your questions are academic until you decide who is supposed to be attacking us. (Of course we are far too civilized and kindly to start any wars).

      Probably no European country. Hardly likely to be African or South American. Can we rule out the Commonwealth? That basically leaves Russia and the USA, and if either of them attacked us there would be nothing left but a pile of smoking ashes in about 45 minutes. (Yes, even faster than Saddam Hussein could have managed).

      Of course there is always Israel... a nation with a thermonuclear arsenal probably larger than the UK's, whose loyalties and policies are utterly mysterious and unpredictable. And it's within easy range.

      There is no imaginable situation in which an F-35, or any number of them, would do us the slightest good. Their only purpose is to enrich American billionaires - which they do very effectively indeed.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: What will happen during a war?

        "Can we rule out the Commonwealth?"

        Pakistan and India are both members of the Commonwealth. Both have nuclear missiles and have been at each others throats since 1947.

        Of the two Pakistan would seem the more likely to be politically destabilised into attacking the UK.

        However - the politics of India are also on the trend of being populist - with hard line nationalistic religious pressures. With a population and land area much larger than the UK - and possibly less infrastructure dependency - then they might hope to "win" a nuclear exchange.

      2. Adam 52 Silver badge

        Re: What will happen during a war?

        "There is no imaginable situation in which an F-35, or any number of them, would do us the slightest good."

        The optimistic scenario is that they'd stop an invading army for long enough that there's enough time to get on the phone and avert a nuclear holocaust.

        Realistically though these are a tool for bullying much weaker countries.

        1. ridley

          Re: What will happen during a war?

          In which case we don't need a hideously expensive hanger queen when we could have bought some F18's and used the money saved on some bungee cords for our carriers.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: What will happen during a war?

        ** cough ** china ** cough **

        Territorial disputes over subsea mineral and oil rights in the Pacific and Indian oceans where we will have to support our regional allies and protect shipping routes

        Have you seen Bahrain? It's not like we built that to give our folks in uniform a nice suntan. Aggressive state and non-state actors in an unstable region that's shortly, in a geo-political sense, going to lose substantial income as oil demand plummets whilst ideological and religious tensions continue to escalate

        Plus, as you say, a resurgent Russia looking to re-establish itself as a super power and a force to be reckoned with on the world stage; annexing yet another country would drag us into either direct or proxied conflict - although direct conflict is admittedly unlikely as that's only going to end one way

        All of these require projected air superiority beyond our land mass bases

        "Attacking us" is a WW2 concept

      4. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

        Re: What will happen during a war?

        ...Your questions are academic until you decide who is supposed to be attacking us. (Of course we are far too civilized and kindly to start any wars)....

        France, of course!! Who else is our historic enemy?

        (OK, Scotland has a habit of attacking from the North every time we have a fight in the South with the Frogs. So we will need a few to defend Carlisle. When the SNP get their own nuclear strike force it will be a whole new ball game ..)

        1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

          Re: What will happen during a war?

          I see the armchair generals and strategists are out in force.

          What use is F35 you ask? Who knows. It's impossible to know. We ordered some of the things about 5 years ago, having been putting money into the project for another 5-10 years before that, and we're not getting all the planes we ordered for another 5-10 years. Once we've got them, we may well buy more, when the price has come down a bit. Or not.

          But the important point is that we'll be operating the things until 2040-2060. What will be the global security environment in 20-40 years time? Anyone? Anyone?

          However at the moment we're using the RAF to fight ISIS, plus we've recently used it in Libya. And there's now a considerable body of thought that says we should have used it against Syria's chemical weapons capability in 2013 (where stealth might actually have been useful), though opinions differ obviously.

          But the other big job the RAF are currently doing is patrolling the skies over the Baltic States. Because we're treaty-bound to defend them via NATO. But it's considered better to have forces in place to deter Russia, than to try to retake the places after they've fallen.

          I don't think anyone is currently suggesting there's any threat to the UK itself. Other than from France of course. We've got to be prepared to fight off the Frogs...

          But the point is Russia currently have form in invading their neighbours in order to "protect" Russian minorities left over from Soviet days. And that population is a running sore in Baltic States politicsj - particularly the older generation who only speak Russian and have a bit of nostalgia for the "good old days". So if we're going to have those countries in NATO we need a credible force in place,so Russia can't just conquer them in a day. Because if they have to mobilise sufficient force to do it, we've got time to react and reinforce ourselves.

          But also the Russians know they've got to kill lots of British, US, German servicement to do it. Which then means other NATO governments have no excuse to just shrug their shoulders, up sanctions a bit and do the old Yes Minister "there's nothing we can do" bit.

          The nuclear threat isn't credible if you're going from a standing start to WWIII. And realistically we're not going to re-invade somewhere on Russia's border once lost. The so the answer is credible military force in place (while not being big enough to actually threaten Russia), with reinforcement possible, backed by the nuclear deterrent.

          Of course we could just have stuck with our old planes, but Tornado is getting old. And also, while you can fly old planes, and then buy new off-the-shelf ones to meet a threat quite quickly. Maybe 2 or 3 years to retrain pilots and start getting the new ones (even quicker if you buy second-hand like Canada buying old Aussie F18s). You can't do that with a carrier capability. Which as a trading nation on an island that imports food, oil and goods - is something quite useful. As well as for power projection.

          To get a carrier designed and built and takes years. You've then got to train a crew to run it safely. Then train the pilots and buy the planes. Even in a rush and buying off-the-shelf designs you'd struggle to get an operational carrier within a decade. That's why the Russians had so much trouble with sending theirs to Syria - because even not regularly using it means you can't operate it properly. Carrier ops are hard. Complex, dangerous and expensive.

        2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

          Re: What will happen during a war?

          When the SNP get their own nuclear strike force it will be a whole new ball game

          In the meantime, they'll make do with weaponised[1] haggis..

          [1] Soaking in Irn Bru and Special Brew..

          1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
            Happy

            Re: What will happen during a war?

            Why does Scotland need nukes? Or to ruin perfectly good haggis.

            They have bagpipes. What other weapon could they need? 50 pipers, all with pipes deliberately detuned, could bring London to its knees in a few hours.

            1. CanadianMacFan

              Re: What will happen during a war?

              Detuned? That implies that bagpipes can be tuned in the first place!

    5. TheSkunkyMonk

      Re: What will happen during a war?

      If IBM can sell machines to the English and Germans during war time I am sure there will be no problems here! War is just an excuse to keep the economy running and to rebuild stuff we already have.

    6. martinusher Silver badge

      Re: What will happen during a war?

      The spare parts inventory software has already had a meltdown so you don't really need a war to get into this situation.

      I think they they're an updated version of the German Panzer problem from WW2. The Germans designed some incredibly fine tanks, difficult to destroy, powerfully armed and so on. Unfortunately they over-improved them, resulting in fighting vehicles that were expensive to produce and difficult to mass produce. (They also had other problems like forgetting to make the things narrow enough to fit on railway freight cars.) There were never enough of them but there were always a lot of T-34s and as they say, the T34 only needs to get lucky once while the Panzer needed to get lucky 100% of the time.

      Since the US defense sector is now a major component of the economy I daresay their real reason for existing is a form of tribute from vassal states.

      1. Sanguma

        Re: What will happen during a war?

        Since the US defense sector is now a major component of the economy I daresay their real reason for existing is a form of tribute from vassal states.

        Oh the irony. The US derided the USSR during the Cold War for letting the defense industry become a major part of their economy. Read The Russians, by Hedrick Smith

        http://hedricksmith.com/books/the-russians/

        There's really not much to add to that, is there?

  5. Scott Broukell

    Well then. now that they have started to arrive on these shores, can we get a move on planing/designing their replacement please.

    1. GrumpyOldBloke

      Nope, not yet. After such a long time in the air have to first work out how to get them to Turkey for maintenance.

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        Aren't Turkey only doing engine maintenance? So you just crate the engines up and ship them there. Fly if you're in a rush. You tend to have more engines than combat aircraft anyway. Because maintenance.

        1. MrXavia

          Surely Rolls Royce could come up with a replacement power-plant if things got really bad?

  6. Vulch

    Reliability?

    While four may have landed in the UK, five took off from the USA. One turned back after the first refuelling for a so far undisclosed reason.

    1. Ledswinger Silver badge

      Re: Reliability?

      What makes you think it turned back? I reckon it will have fallen in the sea, but as always the MoD won't admit. Just like the 5 missing Watchkeepers.

      On the key point about reliability, F35B is always going to have terrible reliability simply because of its combined hardware and software complexity. Military bods to a fair extent understand that increased mechanical complexity equals lower reliability, they've not yet realised that the same is true of software, despite all the evidence.

    2. Spasticus Autisticus

      Re: Reliability?

      Four were due, 5 take off, no problems with the 4 due to make the crossing so the spare turned back.

      1. Ledswinger Silver badge

        Re: Reliability?

        Four were due, 5 take off, no problems with the 4 due to make the crossing so the spare turned back.

        So in carefully chosen optimal weather, in peacetime, for a ferry mission without ordnance or targets, with probably 150,000 flying hours across the F35 fleet and countless billions spent, months to prepare, and they still need to send out five hoping that four land?

        Fucking useless. The whole shitbag F35 programme is a disaster that will last half a century start to finish.

        1. Dave Hilling

          Re: Reliability?

          Its called an Air Spare, Air Forces have been doing it well forever.... but what do I know I only spent 20 years as a aircraft avionics tech in the USAF.

      2. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

        Re: Reliability?

        Four were due, 5 take off, no problems with the 4 due to make the crossing so the spare turned back.

        It was a similar plan which saw Martin Withers in Vulcan XM607 as reserve aircraft take over when XM598 developed a fault and had to return to base during Operation Black Buck 1. The original plan was for XM607 to return to base after the first refueling.

        1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
          Happy

          Re: Reliability?

          Although Martin Withers should also have turned back. Given that his window malfunctioned, and they had to jam it closed with a sandwich wrapper in flight.

          Good job they packed a lunch!

  7. Joe Harrison Silver badge

    I thought economy class was bad

    Imagine doing a nine-hour flight in one of those things with no movies or gin-tonic. Then being compos mentis enough to land it in a strange place.

    1. Archtech Silver badge

      Re: I thought economy class was bad

      Luckily you don't have to land it. You just get it to the right county and press a button.

      1. Dave Robinson

        Re: I thought economy class was bad

        You have to press the right button.

        1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

          Re: I thought economy class was bad

          You have to press the right button.

          Would that be the black button on a black surround that has on it (written in black) "do not press this button"?

          Cos that seems like a good candidate to me.

    2. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: I thought economy class was bad

      And no poop shoot only a urine hose. At least they haven't use caster oil since WWI.

    3. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
      Happy

      Re: I thought economy class was bad

      I believe they've got decent autopilots - though that still leaves them having to do mid-air refueling and land the thing. But I don't see why they couldn't hide a G&T or two in the packed lunch?

  8. jonathan keith

    Er, what?

    Re: Gavin Williamson's statement, how's this thing going to tackle terrorism? Based on recent attacks in the UK, I'd suggest that use of a jet fighter is not the most efficient method of stopping a couple of men armed with knives, bomb vests or a van.

    1. Ledswinger Silver badge

      Re: Er, what?

      I'd suggest that use of a jet fighter is not the most efficient method of stopping a couple of men armed with knives, bomb vests or a van.

      You, Mr Keith, lack the imagination of our greatly esteemed defence minister. The F35 would excel in that role. You disarm the F35, unload the fuel, and then have it parked right across the road.

    2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Er, what?

      Ever heard of ISIS and Al Qaeda? I'm sure they've been in the news the odd time or two...

      As it turns out, the times we've allowed them to hold territory, they've recruited and trained large numbers of people for terrorist attacks back in Europe. Hence making the calculation that allowing them to hold territory might be a worse idea than the alternative of using military force to stop them.

      You may think that calculation is wrong, but you can't call it irrational.

      1. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

        Re: Er, what?

        @I ain't spartacus

        Yes, very true. If there is one thing history has taught us, it's that if you want to defeat irregulars embedded in a population, the first thing you need is air superiority. Then, we'll send in the navy. Just wait 'til they get a load of our new carriers!

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    They can do some amazing things

    A great Idea extension of vtol/stol. As a product not so great, parts are hard to come by and the products faults are still emerging in endpoint testing.

    Just hope that the good of the Lightening may traverse the bad and make it into other aircraft in the future

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: They can do some amazing things

      Isn't this what happens witih most military systems though? Especially the complex ones.

      The only question is, does enough money get invested in fixing them once they're taken into service. Which given the huge numbers of these being bought, is pretty likely.

      The original Lightning was great for example. But was shit for serviceability, because you pretty much needed to take an engine out to get to anything else inside the airframe. Meaning that 15 minute maintenance jobs took 10 hours.

  10. Mark 85 Silver badge
    Pint

    I think (in spite of the mess the program is) that a well done needs to be conferred upon the pilots. A long flight in an unproven aircraft where a lot could have gone very wrong but didn't.

  11. GrumpyKiwi Silver badge

    Stop Defence reporting, you're crap at it.

    Seriously el'Reg, you are rubbish at defence reporting. I see "better" articles in the Daily Mail. Stick to what you're good at - promoting Dev Ops and making nasty comments about IBM.

    The F-35 is operational. It's been used in combat missions. Pretty much every "panic" story about it has turned out to be over-hyped horsecrap.

    1. Dave Hilling

      Re: Stop Defence reporting, you're crap at it.

      We live in the days of instant communication. Every major aircraft program has their issues, but you notice its only become something so out there and known since the internet came to widescale use. I blame the internet as one of the main reasons the F-22 was canceled so early. Panicky politicians listening to idiots with no understanding of aerial warfare or tactics and making decisions based on that. I worked on F-16s and there have been at least 9 different versions of them each either adding capabilities or fixing issues such as engine power etc, but when most people see an F-16 they assume it came out nearly perfect... It didn't it killed a few pilots with its issues and there were calls to cancel it, now its one of the most widely built fighters ever because it was good, damn good at a lot of things. The F-35 over time I believe will equal or surpass that, sure its tough in early versions as things are still being worked out, but we have to our stupid politicans cant be given a chance to cancel something so revolutionary. Also to the F-35s credit it has yet to have a full on crash or kill a pilot, something so far unheard of in new aircraft development.

  12. GrapeBunch Bronze badge

    Ring off hire

    I'm glad to see in the pic that they have a reinforcement ring under the cockpit. That way you can keep your collection neatly in a binder while waiting for them to become flight-safe.

    1. Neil Barnes Silver badge
      Black Helicopters

      New, from D'Agostini

      Build your own air force, in just 153 monthly parts.

      Learn about the history and operations of the air force as you slowly build your collection! Every monthly edition includes a new part of your air force, for you to build and enjoy.

      Part two free with part one!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: New, from D'Agostini

        Embarrassing train moment laughing out loud ....

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    GDPR

    Let's hope they're GDPR ready and opt-in, else we'll have to send them back.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    News to us in the U.S.

    > An MoD spokesman told The Register: "The F-35 programme remains on track, on time, within costs

    > and offers cutting-edge capability to help our Armed Forces keep us safe.

    Maybe it is just the F-35 program that's behind schedule?

    1. IWVC

      Re: News to us in the U.S.

      An MoD spokesman told The Register: "The F-35 programme remains on track, on time, within costs"

      presumably that is the same Government definition of "on time" etc. used to describe the rail franchising system....?

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        Re: News to us in the U.S.

        No, it's on time and within budget since the last time we "updated" the budget and schedule.

        Maybe it'll even meet these new targets. If not, we can always make some more...

  15. Potemkine! Silver badge

    What a load of PR BS

    With a game-changing ability to [...] tackle terrorism

    So F-35 will stop 'lone wolves' stabbing randomly people in the street? No shit!

    If you can’t see us coming, you won’t be able to stop us

    The 1999 F-117A shootdown was an event that took place on 27 March 1999, during the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia [...] when an Army of Yugoslavia unit used an S-125 Neva/Pechora to down a Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk stealth aircraft of the United States Air Force

  16. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

    Silent But Deadly

    "If you can’t see us coming, you won’t be able to stop us, so with its stealth and other world-beating technologies the F-35..."

    Shurly a unit of crack Special Forces deployed behind enemy lines fed on rations of baked beans can achieve the same effect

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
      Happy

      Re: Silent But Deadly

      Even the SAS under full baked bean propulsion can't achieve Mach 1. Plus, isn't that chemical warfare?

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Just heard something different flying over...

    I live in mid Wales and sometimes fighters fly over, usually 2 or 3, together or following each other. Just heard two VERY different sounding sounding planes with much more extreme Doppler than usual (and a higher pitch) less thunderous. That them?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Just heard something different flying over...

      Same AC - two identical sounding planes which sound different to the usual (extremely so) - not two extremely different sounding planes.

  18. Toilet Duk

    Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said in a statement: “With a game-changing ability to collect crucial intelligence, fight wars and tackle terrorism, these are the most advanced jets in British history.”

    Fight terrorism with F-35s, Jesus Christ.

    "Terrorism", the catch-all excuse for everything these days, is there nothing it can't justify?

    1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      "Terrorism", the catch-all excuse for everything these days, is there nothing it can't justify?

      Brexit? Boris Johnson?

  19. Toilet Duk

    "If you can’t see us coming, you won’t be able to stop us"

    Yeah, I'm willing to bet the "stealth" isn't half as effective as advertised unless your enemy is using 1960s Russian radar.

  20. RancidRodent

    "If you can't see us coming"

    "If you can’t see us coming, you won’t be able to stop us, so with its stealth and other world-beating technologies the F35 Lightning takes the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy to a whole a new level of capability."

    Of course RADAR return oversampling (DSP signal processing) has rendered RADAR stealth completely irrelevant - the tiniest return can be tracked accurately - we knew this ten years ago - the game was already up and still billions of good money has been thrown after bad. The new game is passively tracking infrared "noise", I suspect a plane shaped like Kryten's head will disturb the air more than something actually designed to fly efficiently and will end up with a larger (nose on) heat-signature as a result. Crickey, even without modern technology, in the Gulf (part 1) the Royal Navy were asked to stop tracking the F117As because the constant wailing of their RADAR alarms were making the pilots in their lumbering subsonic aircraft nervous - a quick tweak of a screwdriver on the old relatively long-wave Type 42's RADARs was all it took - oh look - "stealth" bombers...

    Now we have relatively slow and difficult to service aircraft which can't turn climb or carry much payload for an "advantage" that doesn't exist. Given that we can't actually afford many of them because they are so hideously expensive - in a real war scenario you'd be forced to carry external weapons loads for operational reasons - making them even slower with even less endurance and a RADAR signature the size of Wembley stadium - Doh!

    1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
  21. Mike Richards Silver badge

    'Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier, the RAF's Chief of the Air Staff, chipped in: "If you can’t see us coming, you won’t be able to stop us, so with its stealth and other world-beating technologies the F35 Lightning takes the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy to a whole a new level of capability."'

    Lockheed Martin certainly saw you coming.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Expeditionary forces?

    Thus spake the First Sea Lord: "Once combined with our new aircraft carriers, HMS Queen Elizabeth and her sister ship HMS Prince of Wales, these extraordinary jets will sit at the heart of our country’s globally deployable expeditionary forces...."

    So our expensive aircraft carrier -- the one currently without ANY aircraft -- will not be useful till at least 2021. And the Type 45 Destroyers -- the ones with crappy engines which leave them "dead in the water" -- won't all be fixed till 2025.

    I guess being First Sea Lord will be a pretty cushy job for the next seven years. And then there's the question about the government(s) and the civil servants who orchestrated these expensive f**k ups. Lots of people at Babcocks and BAE counting taxpayers money rolling in! Cynical? Moi?

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