Fighter purchase off if Stealth secrets not shared

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Fighter purchase off if Stealth secrets not shared

Geoff Elliott, the Australian, 16 maart 2006 LS,

Ter aanvulling op het vanmiddag verzonden bericht: ook in Australie is men dermate ontevreden over de Amerikaanse onwil technologie te delen, dat ook daar gedreigd wordt met terugtrekking. Na het VK en Noorwegen is Australie het derde land dat in korte tijd openlijk met terugtrekking uit het JSF-project schermt.

Verder heeft volgens Nederland ook een verklaring afgeven voor de JSF Senaatshoorzittingen, vwb de gevolgen van het cancelen van de 2e JSF motor voor de industrie hier. Onbekend is hoe die verklaring heeft geluid.

AUSTRALIA is threatening to reconsider its $12 billion commitment to buy up to 100 joint strike fighters unless the US agrees to share the secrets of the planes' Stealth technology.

In a dramatic escalation of the stakes over the US-led JSF program, the head of the Australian Defence staff in Washington told the powerful US Senate Armed Services Committee that Australia needed access to the technology to support the new-generation war planes.
Rear Admiral Raydon Gates said that if Australia did not win that access to information such as software codes to be able to service the fighters, Canberra's involvement was in doubt.
"Guaranteed access to necessary JSF data and technology to allow Australia to operate and support the JSF will be required before we join the next phase of the project," Admiral Gates told the committee, which is conducting two days of hearings into the JSF. Admiral Gates said if the issue was not resolved it would also have ramifications for future joint combat operations with the US.
Canberra has already expressed concern about the technology-transfer issue.
But Admiral Gates's warning adds weight to a diplomatic row that is disappointing US allies who are partners in the JSF - particularly Britain, the US's biggest partner in the development, which also wants access to the technology.
Australia is slated to spend $12billion buying up to 100 of the F-35s, which are due for delivery about 2012 to 2014 to replace its ageing F-111 and F/A-18 fleet. It would be the biggest military procurement in Australia's history and central to Australia's defence capability for the next 30 years.
But Admiral Gates said that "overly restrictive access to United States technology could have numerous negative consequences for both of us". He said this included "forcing Australia to acquire systems elsewhere" as well as threatening the inter-operability of the warplanes in allied assaults.
He added it would "limit operational capability of Australian forces alongside US forces, and reduce the level of co-operative technological development between our governments and industries".
Admiral Gates told the senators that Australia was still committed to the JSF program as a "key element of our future defence capability, both for the defence of Australia and to contribute to future coalition operations (but) let me stress our ongoing success in terms of operations and co-operative projects, such as the JSF, are subject to timely access to necessary technology and data".
He said this kind of access was "essential for successful coalition operations, including our ongoing co-operation in Afghanistan and Iraq".
Canberra says negotiations with the Pentagon are being conducted with goodwill, with sign-off on the next phase of the JSF program due in September. But the US Congress and aircraft-maker Lockheed Martin are resisting the transfer of technology. They fear handing over the keys to the closely guarded Stealth aircraft evasion systems, particularly to industrial competitors.
Without a transfer, Australia and other JSF partners would become beholden to Lockheed Martin specialists after every sortie of the warplanes in order to work through any technology issues. Australia expects there should be a domestic capability.
The senators were told that letters between US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and then defence minister Robert Hill in 2002, when Australia joined the project, spelt out an understanding over the technology-transfer issue.
Outside the hearing, Admiral Gates played down the threat of Australia withdrawing from the program but said the technology issue was a "major concern for us", saying it "was largely about our ability to support the aircraft". He remained "confident of a good outcome".
Britain's Defence Procurement Minister, Paul Drayson, who also attended yesterday's hearing chaired by Republican John Warner, told the committee: "We are approaching important decisions that will impact on both UK and US military capability for a generation."
Lord Drayson said the US needed to understand that a mutual commitment to the JSF was dependent on Britain having "the operational sovereignty that we require". He also told reporters that Britain's ability to buy the next-generation fighter was at risk.
"We should be absolutely clear about what our bottom line is on this matter ... we will not be able to purchase the aircraft," he said.

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