British F35 stealth jet crashes into Mediterranean after takeoff
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The UK has more state-of-the-art F-35 fast jets than pilots due to problems with training, defence secretary Ben Wallace has revealed. The Ministry of Defence only has just over 20 of the £100m warplanes but is unable to unable to man all of them, he said.
Speaking to Sky News, a fuming former Royal Air Force officer said: “It’s a shambles.”
Mr Wallace described the situation as “quite a challenge” when speaking to a committee of peers.
The former Scots Guard captain argued that the lack of pilots was due to the fact that the F-35 Lightning aircraft is new.
However, despite Mr Wallace’s claim, the Ministry of Defence formally announced it’s intention to buy the jets in 2006.
The programme was led by the United States and US defence giant Lockheed Martin.
In 2010, the first British pilot flew one of the F35s.
Mr Wallace has admitted that the RAF’s flying training has been best by delays.
At present, pilots take eight years to qualify rather than the target of two to three years.
He said: “Our pilot pipeline is not in a place I would want it to be.”
Mr Wallace who has been defence secretary since 2019 instructed Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Wigston, the head of the Royal Air Force to sort out flying training as his only priority during his first year in the job.
However, despite the instructions from the Wyre and Preston North MP it appears to still be in crisis.
The F-35 is one of the British military’s most expensive and coveted equipment programmes.
They are highly valued by the military because of the sophisticated radars, sensors along with other pieces of covert equipment.
Originally the UK intended to buy 138 of the F35 jets but only 27 have been bought to date.
One of them is out of service following a crash off a Royal Navy Aircraft carrier last year three are in the US leaving 23 for use by Royal Air Force and Fleet Air Arm pilots.
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