Britain's fighter jets 'grounded by spares shortages'

15th April 2011, Comments 0 comments

Britain's Eurofighter Typhoon jets, which carried out their first Libya bombing missions this week, were grounded last year due to shortages of spare parts, lawmakers said Friday.

The parliamentary report said five Typhoon pilots had to be grounded temporarily because there were insufficient fully operational aircraft for them to log the required flying time.

It noted that the shortages had also affected pilots' training last year, with only eight of the Royal Air Force's 48 Typhoon pilots qualified for ground attack operations -- the role the plane is currently being used for in Libya.

The bombing of two tanks near the city of Misrata this week was the first time the Typhoon has fired its weapons in anger in a ground attack role since entering service with the RAF.

Defence Secretary Liam Fox insisted on Thursday that the Eurofighter project was "finally under control and on track".

But the RAF is currently having to 'cannibalise' aircraft for spare parts in a bid to keep the maximum number of Typhoons operational on any given day.

The Commons Public Accounts Committee scrutiny body said the Ministry of Defence had warned the problems were likely to continue until 2015 when it expects the supply of spares finally to have reached a "steady state".

"The department (MoD) relies on a small group of key industrial suppliers who have the technical and design capability to build, upgrade and support Typhoon," the committee said.

"Problems with the availability of spare parts have meant that Typhoons are not flying as many hours as the department requires."

It said the supply chain for Typhoon spares was "complex and stretches across Europe".

However, the department admitted that the supplies process "had not been managed well enough or delivered all the required parts when needed."

The cost of the Typhoon project has soared since its inception due to bad planning and over-optimistic targets, Britain's public sector spending watchdog said last month.

© 2011 AFP

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