A third of RAF warplanes have been removed from the frontline and mothballed or are undergoing major maintenance work, the Ministry of Defence has admitted.
Figures unearthed by freedom of information campaigners show 142 of 434 of the air force’s planes have been sidelined.
The tally includes Typhoon fighter jets - the 1,500mph Top Guns which are the last line of the UK’s air defence against Russian forces and fly daring bombing missions attacking Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria.
Military top brass revealed 55 of the 156 Typhoon jets are in the RAF’s “sustainment fleet” - and not in its “forward fleet” ready to be deployed on operations.
Even some planes and helicopters in the forward fleet may be “short-term unserviceable aircraft”.
The figures are a major embarrassment for the RAF, which marked its centenary in 2018.
Critics believed the statistics fuelled fears Government cuts have hollowed out Britain’s defences.
Shadow Defence Secretary Nia Griffith said: “Conservative cuts have had a crippling effect on this country’s defences and our ability to respond to the range of threats that the UK faces.
“In 2017 it was the year of the Navy, but so many of our frigates and destroyers are tied up for months on end.
“In 2018, when we were all so proud to mark the centenary of the RAF, it is very surprising that so much equipment is unavailable.
“It is time for Conservative Ministers to be honest about their legacy of eight years of austerity in defence.
“Labour is committed to rebuilding this country’s defences and giving our armed forces the resources that they need.” (end of excerpt)
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