F-35B first landing on HMS Queen Elizabeth
RAF

'No Risks' Involved With Chinese-Owned Company Making F-35 Parts, MOD Says

Britain currently owns 17 F-35Bs, with a total of 138 expected to be bought.

F-35B first landing on HMS Queen Elizabeth

The F-35 is the UK's most advanced warplane (Picture: MOD).

The Ministry of Defence (MOD) says there are "no risks" involved with a Chinese-owned company making circuits boards for the UK's F-35 fighter jets. 

Exception PCB, based in Gloucestershire, produces circuit boards that "control many of the F-35's core capabilities", according to information released by the MOD.

It said this includes the jet's "engines, lighting, fuel and navigation systems". 

A report by Sky News revealed the manufacturer was bought by Chinese firm Shenzhen Fastprint in 2013. 

A director from the company said there are "clear firewalls in place" between Exception PCB and its parent company Shenzhen Fastprint.

Defence experts have expressed concern because of long-standing fears about Chinese spying and the involvement of Chinese company Huawei in the UK's 5G network.

Huawei, however, has always argued its equipment is safe.

Touch down: an F-35B arrives at RAF Akrotiri after a six hour journey (Picture: Royal Navy).
Last month, six of Britain's F-35Bs arrived at RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus for Exercise Lightning Dawn (Picture: Royal Navy).

A former Conservative defence minister, Sir Gerald Howarth, told Sky News: "We have been completely and utterly naive about the role of China and it is only now that people are beginning to wake up."

The MOD said Exception PCB is an established manufacturer and its products are universally used in both military and civilian aviation.

A spokesperson said: "Exception PCB produces bare circuit boards and as a result, there are no risks associated with their product in the F-35 aircraft supply chain.”

F-35B first landing on HMS Queen Elizabeth
Britain's F-35Bs will operate from HMS Queen Elizabeth in the future (Picture: MOD).

Mike Devine, sales director at Exception PCB, said: "We produce bare circuit boards only in the UK for all of our aerospace and defence companies and have no visibility or access to the design data nor drawings for the boards.

"All that is supplied from any customer is manufacturing data.

"All data is secured on a separate internal server and access to data is protected by passwords, only accessible by a selected few."

There is no suggestion either Exception PCB or Shenzhen Fastprint have done anything wrong. 

Lockheed Martin, the main manufacturer of the F-35, said it is "not aware of any other Chinese-owned F-35 suppliers at this time". 

The F-35 is used by other militaries across the world including the US, Turkey, Canada and Italy. 

Britain currently owns 17, with a total of 138 expected to be bought.

The jets, which each cost around £190 million, can operate from both land and sea.