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First image emerges of F35 jet as it was recovered from the sea after a crash in the Mediterranean Sea

The delivery of the RAF’s new US-built F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter in July 2021 was a rare moment of celebration in what was an unsettled project.

The “fifth-generation” fighter jet is the world’s most expensive weapons system, though costs eventually stabilized at a dazzling $406 billion.

Manufacturer Lockheed-Martin agreed to cut costs after US President Donald Trump criticized the project and even tweeted support for a rival plane.

Britain is currently embarking on a £9.1 billion program to buy 48 of the F-35s from US aviation giant Lockheed Martin by 2025.

One of the first four F-35B Lightning II aircraft arrives at RAF Marham in Norfolk on 6 June 2018

America enticed its NATO and other allies to share the cost of the plane by providing inputs to manufacture and 15 percent of each plane is made up of parts from British companies, while some of the jets will be made in Italy.

But the planes are plagued by a series of problems that have caused costs to skyrocket.

There are fears that shortcomings in the technical systems underlying the new generation of warplanes will not allow them to function properly.

The actual cost of the British planes delivered this year is estimated to be in excess of £150m each to cover ‘extras’ such as software upgrades and spare parts.

There are also concerns that the aircraft’s software system is vulnerable to cyber-attacks and cannot be independently tested by the UK.

The weak broadband on the Royal Navy’s main aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth, is also hampering the jet’s capabilities.

The problems are not being solved by the department responsible for the computer networks essential to the operation of the aircraft and has to find a saving of £400 million this year.

The reports on costs and other issues prompted the Defense Select Committee to investigate the project.

It reprimanded the Ministry of Defense for leaving parliament and the public in the dark about the charges.

The Ministry of Defense has so far refused to provide the estimated cost to the UK of purchasing the F-35, except citing a National Audit Office which used the £9.1bn figure.

MEPs said “it is simply not acceptable for Defense to refuse to disclose its estimates of the total cost of the program to parliament and the public.”

While the cost of the F-35 has been the focus of attention, there are also embarrassing reports of operational shortcomings from the United States.

In a mock battle in 2015, the advanced aircraft was defeated by an older generation F-16, an aircraft designed in the 1970s.

In 2020, Pentagon tests found 276 different flaws in the jet’s combat system.

They include the 25mm gun that vibrates excessively and issues with the plane’s ‘virtual reality’ helmet

Overheating, premature wear of components in the vertical tails and vulnerability to fire were also found to be issues.

The United States Air Force has temporarily grounded dozens of F-35 stealth fighters while investigating an oxygen supply problem.

The Marine Corps, which also flies the same F-35B model the UK bought, was forced to ground its planes after bugs were found in the computer system.

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