Britain's Plan B?; U.K. Procurement Minister Urges Choosing JSF Backup, Just in Case

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Britain's Plan B?; U.K. Procurement Minister Urges
Choosing JSF Backup, Just in Case

ANDREW CHUTER, Defense News, 5 december 2005

Britain's top procurement official has indicated the country will need to have a fall-back option in place to strengthen its hand in discussions with the United States over the vexed issue of Joint Strike Fighter technology transfer. Lord Drayson, the defense procurement minister, said that while he didn't think there was a need for an alternative plan to the JSF, it would be prudent to have another option available. "I am not getting into details about a Plan B, but I am saying there has to be a Plan B. I have no sense we need an alternative plan today, and I am not saying we need to pull any levers on Plan B today, absolutely not. But we need to make sure we have done the work needed to ensure we have an option," he told journalists Nov. 30.

Where would the British look for a Plan B? Drayson wasn't saying, and ready alternatives are thin on the ground.
One solution could be a naval version of the Eurofighter Typhoon. That was studied by BAE SYSTEMS ahead of the selection by the British of a very-short-takeoff and landing (VSTOL) version of the F-35 JSF. Other possible contenders might be the Boeing F/A-18 or Dassault Rafale.
Dropping JSF seems a remote possibility. Nevertheless, the aircraft carrier design adopted by the British to carry the VSTOL combat aircraft also has the ability to deploy conventional aircraft.
A BAE spokesman said its marine Typhoon study remains on the shelf, and the government has not asked the company to reactivate the work. Although not talking specifically about the JSF, Drayson, a businessman appointed to the procurement post in May following the Labour Party's general election victory, said it is essential to have an alternative plan of action when negotiating with the United States.
"I spent many years working in America," he said. "I like them and respect them, but one of the things they really respect are people who have worked out what their alternative is to a negotiated agreement. (...) It's very important for us not to travel in hope on things. Be businesslike, realistic and ensure we have thought through our plan B."
The British and U.S. governments have been locked in talks for months over the level of technology transfer London will be allowed on the up to 150 JSFs it plans to acquire for a joint Royal Navy/Royal Air Force unit. The British want access to source codes and other JSF secrets to enable the aircraft, known here as the Joint Combat Aircraft, to be supported and upgraded locally.
Speaking at a recent Parliamentary Defence Select Committee hearing, Commodore Simon Henley, the Defence Procurement Agency's program leader, said Britain needs to have the technologies under sovereign control for operational reasons.

Focus on Intellectual Property

Although the British are investing $2 billion in the JSF program as the only Level 1 partner with the United States, the government here failed to negotiate a full technology release agreement ahead of signing on to the program.
Instead, Britain has been negotiating a series of technology transfer agreements as the program progresses. Although Henley reported progress is being made, it has been tough going in the face of growing Capitol Hill opposition to the release of sensitive U.S. know-how.
Earlier this month, the Financial Times reported that a five-year battle by the British to obtain a waiver on U.S. International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) was close to collapse due to opposition in Congress.
Signing a project deal without agreeing to the technology transfer is a mistake the British are unlikely to make under Drayson.
He said it was 'absolutely right' that in the future, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) receive assurances on intellectual property (IP) ownership and design authority from the outset of a project.
The MoD is scheduled to publish its much-awaited Defence Industrial Strategy before Christmas. More robust British thinking on IP and design authority ownership is likely to be a part of that document.
IP is an area where Drayson has plenty of experience, having spent 10 years in the biotechnology industry.
"Intellectual property is a very big priority for me," he said. "IP and design authority is a real area to focus on. The issues are now as fundamental to the defense industry as they have been to other industries ' for example, pharmaceuticals - for 20 years or so. (...) There is room for improvement in the way in which we manage IP with our international partners and the way in which we can encourage innovation."

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