Three Royal Air Force Typhoons, costing £125million each, and similar to those stationed in the Falkland Islands are being cannibalized at RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire to cover a desperate shortage of parts and keep warplanes flying over Libya reported the Daily Mail on Thursday.
Eight Typhoons are taking part in bombing raids and enforcing the no-fly zone over Libya. The jets also patrol the Falkland Islands and provide the Quick Reaction Alert force protecting UK airspace.
But to save money, air chiefs did not order enough spare parts for the warplanes when they came into service two years ago. This means three jets had to be grounded in March so RAF technicians could raid them to keep the maximum number of Typhoons in the air.
Conservative MP Chris Heaton-Harris, who asked a series of parliamentary questions about the jets, said: ‘It is a disgraceful waste of taxpayers’ money to have £375million sitting in the RAF equivalent of a salvage yard providing spares to keep other planes in the air. Spares should have been easily sourced and in the original contract.
‘The RAF needs to shake itself out of this Steptoe and Son mentality and sort out its logistics problems once and for all – and ministers should be leading this process.’
Shadow Defense Secretary Jim Murphy said: ‘It is vital that the MoD gets a grip on procurement.
‘When our brave forces are in action overseas people will be dismayed that millions of taxpayers’ pounds are being wasted on aircraft that aren’t in action.’
Retired Air Commodore Andrew Lambert said the practice of raiding aircraft for spare parts was ‘neither new nor unusual’.
These planes, dubbed ‘Christmas trees’ by mechanics, were usually undergoing a six-month overhaul so it made sense to strip them of parts if another jet urgently needed one.
‘If you are saying is it better to have spares so you don’t have to cannibalize a plane, then probably yes,’ he said. ‘But there is not an awful lot of money in the defense budget to do this. If you have to rob Peter to refit Paul, then you get on and do it.’
RAF sources said equipment was often taken off a plane as soon as it came into service and fitted to another jet in the operating fleet. Defense equipment minister Peter Luff said: ‘This is a routine measure. None of these aircraft was in the forward fleet.’