David Millward — Business Insider Jan 2, 2015
The much vaunted new F35 stealth jet has run into fresh problems with a software glitch meaning that it will not be able to use its on-board cannon.
Even though the jet, which is costing American taxpayers nearly $400 billion (£257 billion) will enter service next year, reports in America say it will take a further four years before it will be able to shoot its gun.
This will cause huge embarrassment for the programme, which has been dogged by delays, soaring costs and glitches since its inception in 2006.
Billed as the world’s most advanced – and expensive – fighter jet, the cost per plane has nearly doubled and it will be six years late in entering full production.
The F35 has been the Pentagon’s flagship programme with 2,443 due to be deployed across all three services.
However according to the Daily Beast, the F35 still does not have the software it needs to operate the four barrelled rotary cannon.
This will be a particular problem when the aircraft is being used to support ground troops because a gun is more precise than dropping a small bomb in the area – with the latter more likely to cause friendly fire casualties.
Earlier this year the F35 jump jet, which was supposed to be the star attraction at the Farnborough Air Show, failed to appear after the entire fleet was grounded following a fire at a Florida air base in June.
Other problems for the fighter, which is being manufactured by Lockheed Martin, have included discovering that the engine can shut down when the fuel gets too hot to work as a coolant.
In Britain, the Ministry of Defence has ordered 14 F35s, of which a handful are already being tested in the United States.
A contract for the first four was signed a few months ago and the first stealth jets are due to operate from RAF Marham in Norfolk from 2018.
However in the United States there has been increasing criticism of the programme, even from within the administration.
In January the Pentagon’s testing office described the F-35’s performance as “immature” and two months later the administration’s own accountability office highlighted delays in software delivery and its effectiveness.