Exception PCB, based in England, creates circuit boards that "control many of F-35's core capabilities," broadcaster Sky News reports. UK's defence ministry says there are "no risks associated with their product in the F-35 aircraft supply chain".
A Chinese-owned company has been manufacturing key circuit boards for top-secret next-generation F-35 fighter jets flown by the UK and US, broadcaster Sky News reported on Friday.
Exception PCB, based in Gloucestershire, south-west England, produces the parts. Its Chinese parent, Shenzhen Fastprint, bought the company in 2013.
The UK's Ministry of Defence [MoD] said in a press release that the circuit boards control many of the F-35's core capabilities, including its engines, lighting, fuel and navigation systems.
When asked about the ownership of the firm, however, the ministry said Exception PCB is an established manufacturer and presents no risks to the fighter jet's Joint Strike Fighter supply chain.
"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," a spokesperson for the MoD said, downplaying the firm's importance in the programme.
Concerns over Beijing's role
Former defence ministers and experts, however, have expressed concern over a Chinese-owned firm operating at the centre of such a secretive programme.
"We have been completely and utterly naive about the role of China, and it is only now that people are beginning to wake up," Sir Gerald Howarth, a former Conservative defence minister, told Sky News.
The stealth fighter jet is equipped with an array of highly classified technology that includes sensors and weapons systems.
Nine countries form part of the multi-billion-dollar Joint Strike Fighter programme and companies within these countries produce certain parts of the fighter jet.
China has often been accused of trying to steal information on the secretive and highly sensitive programme, which is headed by US defence firm Lockheed Martin.
China denies such accusations.