The first F-35 Lightning touched down in the UK amidst a firestorm of controversy surrounding the safety and capability of the aircraft that has already cost US and British taxpayers over $1.5 trillion with recent estimates indicating that the total program cost will creep up to $2 trillion due to an embarrassing array of mishaps since the effort began to construct the jet in 2001.
The fifth-generation stealth fighter jet arrived at an air force base in Gloucestershire on Wednesday night to great national fanfare. The multi-function jet comes replete with both vertical and standard take off options allowing it to conduct missions in various terrain environments.
The fighter jet has come under scrutiny in recent years as the budget for the fighter jet continues to creep perilously higher. The F-35 comes in at a cost of $150 million (£ 100 million) per aircraft, but has been saddled with continuous delays, system malfunctions, and safety issues.
This week a report was issued that the aircraft’s Martin-Baker ejection seats would instantly snap the neck of any pilot weighing under 135 pounds while those between the weight of 135-160 pounds are considered to be highly susceptible to immediate death upon opting to eject.
Combat testing for the fighter jet has also been delayed for an additional year due to a persistent software glitch that causes the plane to suddenly shutdown midflight. Furthermore, the fleet was grounded recently by fears that its engine could catch fire. The fighter jets guns have also proven defective and completely unable to fire forcing a reworking of the weapons system until 2019.
Most concerning is that even if defense contractor Lockheed Martin and the partners of the fighter jet program are able to work past the bevy of growing system defects, glitches, and safety hazards the F-35 has consistently underperformed in flight simulations losing repeatedly to the 40 year old F-16 fighter jet in combat exercises. The F-16 costs roughly 1/10 as much as the F-35 to produce per unit.