By Leslie Wayne, New York Times
The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter — a $256 billion fighter jet program led by the United States and co-financed by eight allied nations — was supposed to be a model of international cooperation. But because of American reluctance to share critical technologies, some of the biggest partners are threatening to withdraw.
This week, Britain, the principal foreign partner in the program to build the next-generation radar-evading supersonic jet, delivered an ultimatum at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing. Lord Peter Drayson, Britain's top weapons buyer, said Britain would withdraw from the program unless it gained better access to software technology and stealth technology needed to maintain and upgrade the planes it buys.
Okay, I'm going to have to plead waaaaay uninformed here. Perhaps a few of you military savvy ones can help ramp me up to speed in the interim here. (ahem... mdconservative?)
What I do know about the Joint Strike Fighter was it was an expensive design, and thereby cooperation between the UK (who would also purchase planes for their Royal Navy) and US was meant to keep costs down. Original bidding for the contracts came down to Boeing and Lockheed-Martin.... which the latter finally won back in 2001.
Good thing since the whole shebang would have most definitely gone done in flames with UAE's current bid to acquire Boeing....
Since the first plans, and sundry delays, increasing costs, a few more allies have jumped into the financial pot - a cooperative effort between eight nations all together, including Norway, Italy, Turkey, Denmark and the Netherlands to name a few.
Congressional objections that I know of ran the gambit from whether or not it was an advanced enough (or outdated?) design to compete with Russian craft of similar nature, to the costs and delays in the programs. A couple of these articles can be found here and here.
Since I'm not up to date on the latest, I'll reserve further comments about military technology of which I know little. I did have my hands on the latest report sent to Congress in summer of 2005, PDF format. But I'll have to find that again as I didn't bookmark it. Patience, please.
In the interim, I will comment on an area where I do feel comfortable. And that is the continued negative impression Congress gives to foreign nations about doing business and investments with the US. And an ultimatum coming from valued allies like this... clear of any Arab-phobia... shows that our Congress is consistant for a change - but headed down a very dangerous road of protectionism and isolationism.
Let me 'fess up right now. I used to be a protectionist myself. I have a great deal of romantic respect for our first President, that would be Washington for any of you history-challenged... LOL - who insisted that we maintain at least the basics in our nation for self-sustanence. That would include industries such as textiles, steel, copper, aluminum, energy and defense at minimum. Being independent for our most basic needs is only logical.
But since we've already given away the farm on most of these basics, trying to play protectionist at this stage of the game is nothing short of ludicrous. This smacks of the same nonsense as the ports deal. The parallels - sans the racist element - cannot be denied.
Now I'll quit while I'm ahead... for now. But I'm quite sure this story, along with the ports sale fiasco, are harbingers that we should not ignore. Evidently, friend or foe... we trust no one anymore.