Pentagon’s most expensive fighter jet set to be used by the Royal Navy on HMS Queen Elizabeth CAN'T carry advance weapons because of design flaw
- F-35B is slated to be used by the Royal Navy on HMS Queen Elizabeth
- Fighter jet's internal weapons bay is too small for a proper bomb load
- F-35B is supposed to hold eight bombs in the bay, but only four can fit
- A program spokesman has said changes are being made to the jet
- F-35 program will cost an estimated £2.5 billion over the next decade
A design flaw has left a fighter jet that's part of the Pentagon's most expensive project ever incapable of carrying the military's most highly advanced bombs.
The F-35B's internal weapons bay is too small for a Small Diameter Bomb II (SDB II) load, according to an Inside Defense report.
The fighter jet is the centerpiece of the British Royal Navy's new aircraft carrier-based fleet, and dozens have already been ordered.
Trouble in the skies: The F-35B's internal weapons bay is too small for a Small Diameter Bomb II (SDB II) load (file photo)
The Ministry of Defence has ordered 48 of the aircraft and they are the only fighter jets set to launch off two planned British aircraft carriers - the HMS Queen Elizabeth and the HMS Prince of Wales.
Though it's mandated that an F-35B jet, designed by Lockheed Martin, hold eight SDB IIs in the bay, only four reportedly fit.
The F-35 program will reportedly cost more than £2.5 billion over the next decade.
The F-35B is one of three variants of the F-35 program - and it's proved the most expensive and most troublesome to get off the ground. The F-35B features a lift fan that will allow it to make short takeoffs and vertical landings - like a helicopter.
The F-35 in general - and the F-35B in particular - has been plagued by massive cost overruns and delays.
The queen unveils HMS Queen Elizabeth with Prince Philip in a ceremony on the Firth of Forth in July. The ship will be launched for sea trials in 2016
The Ministry of Defence has ordered 48 of the aircraft and they are the only fighter jets set to launch off two planned British aircraft carriers - the HMS Queen Elizabeth (pictured) and the HMS Prince of Wales
Since work began in 2007, an estimated 10,000 shipyard workers and engineers have been employed in building the ship which will employ a crew of fewer than 700 once complete
Artists impressions of the ship's flight deck released before construction was underway. When completed the vessel will have enough room for dozens of aircraft
Joe DellaVedova, a spokesman for the F-35 program, said in an Inside Defense interview last week that changes are being made to the jet so it can be released on schedule.
DellaVedova also said that Lockheed Martin will likely get the alterations contract down the line in 2015.
'This is not a new issue to us,' DellaVedova told Inside Defense. 'We've been working with the SDB II program office and their contractors since 2007.
'The fit issues have been known and documented and there were larger and more substantial modifications needed to support SDB II that have already been incorporated into production F-35 aircraft.
'These minor or remaining changes were put on hold until the aircraft reached a sufficient level of maturity to ensure that the needed changes would not adversely impact any ongoing SDB [II] developments.'
Inside Defense reported that the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program office so far has not publicly recognized problems - and that eight internal and 16 external SDB IIs are in fact meant to go on the F-35B.
Bombs away: The SDB II can employ a number of techniques - including imaging infrared, laser, and radar homing - to hit targets, defense contractor Raytheon says
Defense contractor Raytheon is behind the SDB II bomb.
The company proclaims on its website 'SDB II can fly more than 45 miles to strike mobile targets, reducing aircrews' time in harm's way.
'The weapon's small size allows fewer aircraft to take out the same number of targets as previous, larger weapons that required multiple jets.
'SDB II's size has broader implications for the warfighter and taxpayers, as it means fewer attacks with less time spent flying dangerous missions.'
The SDB II can employ a number of techniques - including imaging infrared, laser, and radar homing - to hit targets, the company says.
The SDB II weapons system is fully accommodated by both the F-35A - the Air Force version - and F-35C - the US Navy version, company executive Jeff White told Inside Defense.
White told the news outlet 'I think it's just the B. When we did our fit checks on the JSF, the A and the C basically had the same bay.'
353 F-35Bs are being bought by the United States Marines Corps, Inside Defense reported.
According to the news outlet, approximately 17,000 weapons will come from the United States Air Force's SDB II program.