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UK government concerned about F-35 jet weight gain

May 17, 2004 (by Lieven Dewitte) - Britain is concerned about excessive weight on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter foiling its costly plans to deploy the U.S. jet on its aircraft carriers.
A government spokesman said on Monday that the extent of the predicted weight growth and its impact on STOVL launch and recovery performance continues to be a concern.

The UK has committed $2.48 billion to the development of the F-35 and they could spend up to $17.7 billion if it goes through with plans to buy 150 of the jets, yet is at guard of cost problems as the MoD battles a tight budget and cost overruns elsewhere.

The United States and the UK are expected to order about 3,000 of the planes, with seven other nations also interested. Low-rate production is expected to begin in 2007, with the first U.S. deliveries three years later.

Lockheed-Martin, which is leading the program, said they are confident the problem could be overcome in time for UK deliveries to begin in 2012.

They also asserted that media reports about weight problems found in computer designs of the plane's engines or the STOVL version's lift fan or rear nozzle were incorrect. "It's mostly in aerostructure," a Lockheed-Martin spokesperson said, confirming that initial designs for the 30,000-pound jets were now running about eight percent over that target weight.

UK media reports said the weight must be shed or the jets could prove too heavy for Britain, which plans to use them aboard two new aircraft carriers expected to enter service in 2012 and 2015.

"Problems like this often occur in the early stages of complex programmes such as JSF. These problems do not undermine the UK's choice of STOVL," the MoD spokesman said.