Britain may quit F-35 fighter plan

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Terwijl Nederland met het oog op de naderende verkiezingen niet wist hoe snel het voor de vervolgfase van de JSF moest tekenen - nl. als eerste van alle partnerlanden - stellen Noorwegen en het VK ondertekening uit totdat hen voldoende duidelijkheid is geboden. De Noren houden nadrukkelijk nog alle opties open (zie bericht uit de Aftenposten hieronder) en in het geval van de Britten zijn nog steeds niet alle problemen rond de door hen geeiste technologie overdracht gladgestreken. "If this issue cannot be resolved there is the real prospect that, as the British (Defence) Minister Lord Drayson has made plain and as he confirmed to me last week, we will pull out", aldus schaduwminister van Defensie Howarth. Gezien het slepende karakter van deze kwestie zeker niet alleen Britse onderhandelingsretoriek. __________________________________________________
Jim Wolf, Reuters 6 december 2006

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Britain may make good on a threat to withdraw from the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the biggest international arms-acquisition project, absent ironclad U.S. pledges to share the plane's technology secrets, Shadow Defence Minister Gerald Howarth said on Wednesday. Howarth said he had discussed the matter on Thursday with Lord Drayson, Britain's minister for defence procurement, as a target looms this month for signing a pact on the program's next stage. "If this issue cannot be resolved there is the real prospect that, as the British (Defence) Minister Lord Drayson has made plain and as he confirmed to me last week, we will pull out," Howarth said. Lockheed Martin Corp. is building three models of the supersonic radar-evading F-35 for the U.S. Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps, and for the British Royal Air Force and Royal Navy to replace the Harrier GR.7 and Sea Harrier. If the government backs out, it would go with "Option B which, it is true, is as yet unspecified," Howarth added at a defence industry conference hosted by the Hudson Institute, a policy research group, in Washington. On Tuesday, Marine Brig. Gen. David Heinz, the Pentagon program office's deputy director, told the Reuters Aerospace and Defence Summit in Washington that he expected Britain to sign a memorandum of understanding extending its participation in the F-35 by the end of this month. All other partners, with the possible exception of Norway, are also expected to sign similar documents, Heinz said. Drayson, testifying at a March 14 U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, had threatened to leave the project if Washington withheld such things as the software source code behind the aircraft's electronic brains. Britain has committed $2 billion (1.02 billion pounds) to develop the F-35, the most of any U.S. partner. It is being co-developed with Italy, the Netherlands, Turkey, Canada, Australia, Denmark and Norway. "It is simply not conceivable that we should have a piece of kit central to our inventory that we cannot operate autonomously," Howarth told reporters after his presentation. He said Britain wanted firm commitments that it would get source code that would let it operate the aircraft on its own even if contracts it signed now failed to foresee every eventuality. Drayson is due to visit Washington next week to try to wrap up a technology-sharing deal before signing the pact that would commit Britain to the program's production and support phase. Kathy Crawford, a spokeswoman for the Pentagon's F-35 program office, said Howarth's comment "does not line up with the feedback that we're receiving from meetings taking place between high-level U.S. and UK government officials." Lockheed Martin said it believed the U.S. and British governments had made excellent progress on technology transfer issues since President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair met on the issue earlier this year. "The two governments continue to work this issue very closely, and we remain confident we will reach a positive resolution," said Thomas Jurkowsky, a Lockheed spokesman in Bethesda, Maryland. Lockheed expects all partners to sign "Production, Sustainment and Follow-on Development" pacts in coming weeks, he added. The British embassy did not return calls seeking comment. Key F-35 subcontractors include BAE Systems Plc and Northrop Grumman Corp.. Britain is scheduled to buy as many as 138 F-35s. _____________________________
1 december 2006,

Norway may provide financial support for the development of the Swedish fighter jet Gripen. If this is the case, Norway will then also fund each of the three competitors vying to deliver the defense replacement for the aging F-16s due to be phased out. "We want three equally placed candidates in the process to 2008," Ministry of Defense state secretary Espen Barth Eide told newspaper Dagbladet. The American Joint Strike Fighter, the Swedish JAS Gripen and the European cooperative project Eurofighter are all jostling to secure Norway's largest ever jet contract. Norway has already given over NOK 400 million (USD 64.4 million) to the development of the JSF. Barth Eide emphasized that a final decision has not been made but said that even if Norway were to continue with the JSF that "compensatory measures" would be taken for the other projects. (Aftenposten English Web Desk/NTB)

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