U.K. Shouldn't Expect Technology Access on JSF, Official Says

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U.K. Shouldn't Expect Technology Access on JSF,
Official Says

June 16 (Bloomberg)

LS, Het delen van technologische informatie met internationale partners blijft een problematische kwestie bij de JSF. Gefrustreerd door de Amerikaanse onwil suggereert BAE Systems directeur Turner hieronder dat de Britten voor de ontwikkeling van een onbemand gevechtsvliegtuig liever met Europese dan Amerikaanse partners zouden gaan werken. m. vr. groet, Frank Slijper

The U.K. shouldn't expect access to design data on the Joint Strike Fighter in return for helping fund the $244 billionprogram, a top Pentagon official said.

"A lot of partners don't seem to quite understand that this isn't an old-style airplane program,'' said General Jeffery Kohler in an interview yesterday at the Paris Air Show. "This is not an offset program or an industrial development program'' that awards contracts in return for funding.

Britain may pull out of the Joint Strike Fighter if there isn't greater sharing of weapons technology on the project, Mike Turner, head of BAE Systems Plc, said at the Paris show on June 13. The U.K. is providing $2 billion of development funding toward the Lockheed Martin Corp.-led project.

"We've put in a lot more than that,'' said Kohler, director of the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, which oversees foreign military sales. ``The U.S. isn't in a position to say you've invested a bit so here you go, here are the blueprints to the Joint Strike Fighter.''

The U.K. needs access to computer codes and design data on the combat plane so the country can maintain and upgrade versions of the jet through its life-time, Turner said The work could be worth as much four times the initial cost of building the planes, he added.

The U.S. Congress's failure to approve an exemption for Britain from rules governing the transfer of arms technology has hurt companies including London-based BAE, Europe's biggest weapons maker, and Roll-Royce Group Plc, both suppliers to the JSF, said Alexandra Ashbourne, a defense analyst who heads London- based Ashbourne Strategic Consulting Ltd.

U.K. Frustration

"There is a huge amount of frustration about the lack of progress on this issue,'' Ashbourne said. "There is real resentment within the U.K. government that despite being the most loyal ally in Iraq, we have nothing to show for it.''

Britain and the U.S. are ordering about 2,600 Joint Strike Fighters between them from 2008. The U.K. is buying about 150 of a version that uses jump-jet technology supplied by Rolls-Royce. BAE is supplying electronics and airframe parts.

``In the worst case, Britain's planes would have to be sent back to theU.S. so that upgrade and maintenance work could be done there,'' said Ashbourne. Manufacturing know-how developed by BAE and Rolls-Royce at the companies' U.S. divisions cannot be shared with their British operations because of strict Pentagon rules, she said.

The Joint Strike Fighter is the costliest U.S. weapons program ever. About 80 percent of the fighter's parts will be shared among three versions to reduce costs. The jump-jet, or short-takeoff-and-vertical-landing version, is the most complex.

Assembly Line

BAE is lobbying the U.K. government to set up a final assembly line for >the jet costing between 50 million pounds and 100 million pounds. The factory would require the Pentagon to provide design data on the plane and "demonstrate the U.S. is willing to give up some technology," Turner said.

The U.K. may also consider cooperating on a European unmanned >aerial-combat vehicle if it doesn't get greater technology sharing on the JSF, Turner said earlier at the show.

Britain, which has yet to develop an armed drone, may work with France and Sweden on their joint Neuron program, rather than the U.S., if it doesn't get greater technology transfer, Turner said.

"The U.K. government and industry have all the access to technology that is needed at this stage,'' said a spokesman for Britain's Ministry of Defence who declined to be named. "Pressure will continue to be maintained as we engage with our U.S. counterparts in this area.''

To contact the reporter on this story:
Matthew Fletcher in London at mfletcher4@bloomberg.net;
Alan Katz in Paris at akatz5@bloomberg.net.
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