US Major General Christopher Bogdan casts doubt on UK’s new F-35 jet
NEW concerns over the production of the next generation fighter jet due at the heart of future UK defence policy have been raised by the US general due to take charge of the programme to construct them.
Major General Christopher Bogdan has attacked Lockheed Martin, the company responsible for building the Joint Strike Fighter or F-35, which is running over-budget and behind schedule, and warned that without changes the project may fail.
He has also raised questions over whether the plane which will be used by the RAF and the Navy from aircraft carriers will be sustainable after they are built and he has expressed anger over the failure to develop the hi-tech helmet needed to fly the planes.
His comments have raised further doubts over the viability of the aircraft, which has already caused problems for the UK government and been criticised by the Commons defence select committee.
Earlier this year, the Ministry of Defence was forced into an embarrassing U-turn on the coalition’s Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) by returning on cost grounds to the jump-jet B-type version of the jet for the carriers being built on the Clyde, which it had wanted to dump for the version that uses catapult launch.
In the speech at an Airforce Association-sponsored conference in the United States, Maj Gen Bogdan called the relationship between contractor Lockheed Martin and the programme office “the worst I have ever seen”.
Hinting at his concerns over whether the project will deliver the aircraft, he added: “We’re going to be on a journey in our programme office. And that journey starts with the recognition that if we do not improve the way we deal on a day-to-day basis with Lockheed Martin, we’re not going to get there.”
He also made it clear he foresaw problems in F-35 maintenance, saying: “The basic strategy on the way we’re going to sustain this airplane has got to make some fundamental changes.”
The general expressed frustration over the problems developing the plane’s hi-tech helmet. He explained: “You cannot fight with this airplane unless you have a helmet that works. Today, we have a helmet that works in a very rudimentary way.”
Labour defence select committee member Thomas Docherty said: “These very serious concerns should be reflected by the UK government. Unfortunately, we seem to get complacency and inaction from defence ministers.”
An MoD spokesman said: “The UK has been at the heart of the Joint Strike Fighter programme for over 10 years, playing a key role in development and production with 15 per cent of the work carried out in the UK. The programme remains on track and we have recently taken delivery of our first test fighter jet..” ”
A spokesman for Lockheed Martin said: “We remain committed to continuing our work to solve programme challenges.”
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