RAF’s new £120m Lightning superjets are protected by just a 5ft picket fence in shocking airbase security lapse
- Four supersonic aircraft arrived last Wednesday at RAF Marham in Norfolk
- But section at end of runway is said to be protected just by the low fence
- Directions on reaching the point have allegedly been posted online
- But rest of base in countryside is protected by 18ft barbed-wire fences
Britain’s new £120million F-35 Lightning warplanes are being guarded only by a 5ft picket fence, it has been claimed.
The four supersonic aircraft arrived last week at RAF Marham in Norfolk, but a section at the end of the runway is said to be protected just by the low fence.
Directions on reaching the point have allegedly been posted online, although the rest of the base in the countryside is protected by 18ft barbed-wire fences.
An F-35 Lightning jet arrives at RAF Marham in Norfolk last Wednesday, one of the first four from the reformed 617 ‘Dambusters’ Squadron to arrive in the UK from the US
It is the latest chapter in the troubled history of the F-35 project, whose spiralling costs have made it the most world’s most expensive weapons system.
Former SAS hero Robin Horsfall told The Sun: ‘A team of commandos could get over that fence and destroy all the jets in one night.
‘This is another reflection of the poor standards and lack of investment in armed forces.
‘The Ministry of Defence hasn’t got the troops to defend the airfield or the money to put in fences.’
The four F-35 jets arrive at RAF Marham last Wednesday after flying over from South Carolina
Last Wednesday, four of the F-35 Lightning warplanes touched down on UK soil for the first time, having been stationed in America since their manufacture.
The aircraft, which had been based at US Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, South Carolina, are being tested and used for training by RAF and Royal Navy pilots.
Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson has described them as ‘formidable fighters’ which are set to keep the country safe from the ‘gravest of dangers’.
Britain currently has 15 F-35Bs – the short take-off and vertical landing variant of the jets – and has pledged to purchase 138 in total from Lockheed Martin.
A section at the end of the runway at RAF Marham is said to be protected just by a low fence
Later this year F-35 flight trials will take place off HMS Queen Elizabeth – seeing British pilots fly jointly owned test jets, currently based in Maryland, off the deck.
A further five jets will join the others at Marham by the end of July and the beginning of August, to make up the recently reformed historic 617 ‘Dambusters’ squadron.
An RAF spokesman told MailOnline today: ‘As a matter of policy neither the RAF nor the MoD discuss security measures at our units.
‘However, we can confirm that security measures in place are robust and multi-layered and are not solely dependent on perimeter fencing.’
F-35: the world’s most expensive weapon system that has been plagued with problems
The delivery RAF’s new, US-built F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter marked a rare moment of celebration in what has been a troubled project.
The ‘fifth generation’ fighter aircraft is already the world’s most expensive weapons system, though costs have finally stabilised at an eye-watering $406 billion.
Manufacturer Lockheed-Martin agreed to cap costs after Donald Trump critised the project and even tweeted support for a rival aircraft.
Britain is currently embarked on a £9.1 billion programme to purchase 48 of the F-35s, from American aviation giant Lockheed Martin, by 2025.
One of the first four F-35B Lightning II aircraft arrives at RAF Marham in Norfolk
America enticed its Nato and other allies into sharing the cost of the aircraft by offering input into manufacture and 15 per cent of each one is comprised of parts from British companies while some of the jets will be made in Italy.
But the planes have been plagued by a catalogue of problems which have sent costs soaring.
There are concerns about shortcomings in the technical systems underpinning the new generation of war planes will leave them unable to function properly.
According to reports the true cost of the British planes delivered this year will be more than £150 million each to cover ‘extras’ such as software upgrades and spare parts.
There are also concerns plane’s software system is vulnerable to cyber-attack and cannot be tested independently by the UK.
The weak broadband on the Royal Navy’s principal aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth is also hampering the jet’s abilities.
The problems are not helped by the department responsible for the computer networks essential to the aircraft’s operation needs to find savings of £400 million this year.
The reports into the costs and other problems prompted the Defence Select Committee to launch an inquiry into the project.
It reprimanded the Ministry of Defence for keeping parliament and the public in the dark about the costs.
The MoD has so far refused to provide the estimated cost to the UK of buying the F-35, beyond referring to a National Audit Office which used the £9.1 billion figure.
MPs said ‘it is simply not acceptable for the MoD to refuse to disclose to parliament and the public its estimates for the total cost of the programme’.
Though the cost of the F-35 has been the focus of attention, there have also been embarrassing reports of operational shortcomings emerging from the United States.
In a mock air battle in 2015, the cutting edge plane was defeated by an older generation F-16, a plane designed in the 1970s.
Last year Pentagon tests found 276 different faults in jet’s combat system.
They included the 25mm cannon vibrating excessively and problems with the he aircraft’s ‘virtual reality’ helmet
Overheating, premature wear of components in the vertical tails and vulnerability to fire were also found to be issues.
The US Air Force temporarily grounded dozens its F-35 stealth fighters while it investigated an oxygen supply issue.
The Marine Corps, who also operate the same F-35B model the UK has purchased, was forced to ground its planes after flaws were found in the computer system.
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