By David A. Fulghum, Douglas Barrie, and Andy Nativi, Aviation Week
More details here about the battle between the US, Pentagon and it's allies (led by the UK) on the development of the stealth fighter.
I tell you, sifting thru port facts and details was a far cry easier for me than all the hoopla surrounding this JSF program. It has been in the works for quite a few years now.
And it appears the battles are not only involving technology transfers, but also alternative engine designs, and what corporations/countries are getting the contracts to build. The primary engine design would allow a complete monopoly on to U.S.-based United Technologies Corp.'s (UTX) Pratt & Whitney. The alternative design was led by General Electric Co. (GE) and U.K.-based Rolls-Royce PLC(RR.LN). The new Pentagon plan is to cut the alternative engine... not necessarily okay with the Brits.
Reading thru this more complete article on the battles raging, I find myself more confused than ever. In the NYTs article by Leslie Wayne, the impression was given that the US was holding on on technology transfer.
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.
Today's Aviation Week story muddies the waters as to whom is being the protectionists.
There are already worries that the frustration over the JSF will taint broader defense-industrial relationships between Washington and London. A British industry source says U.S. officials are already irritated by what they view as protectionist overtones within the British government's Defense Industrial Strategy. There are also concerns about a U.S. backlash against British sales efforts in the U.S., such as on the AgustaWestland EH101 Merlin combat search-and-rescue bid.
There's several issues at stake with the battle. One is investment relationships between the US and our allies - not to mention the long term effect of business sustaining the fighter fleet.
And another fly in the ointment could very well be the health and fruition of the JSF program itself if the UK withdraws. Pressed for more details by Able Danger advocate Curt Weldon, Pentagon undersec'y representative, Ken Krieg, stated he didn't feel the negotiations were to the no-return point of failure, but added that continance of the fighter program without the UK was "possible". Weldon wanted something better than speculation. I'm liking Weldon more and more...
Full story at link above, and some additional excerpts below.
Anglo-American feuding over the Joint Strike Fighter threatens to spill over into the wider transatlantic relationship. On the domestic front, there is bad blood between Congress and the Pentagon over the fate of the aircraft's alternative engine.
Britain is leading the assault on Washington over the contentious issue of technology access on the Lockheed Martin Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), with other program partners, such as Australia, in support.
Dumping the JSF is now an option on the British agenda, if London cannot gain what it calls "operational sovereignty." This was the blunt message made by the British Defense Procurement Minister Paul Drayson, during his visit to the U.S. Capitol last week.
Last week, in special hearings before the Senate Armed Services Committee, British, Australian and Italian officials expressed unhappiness about lack of consultation in the U.S.'s handling of the JSF program and technology transfer delays. The stakes for the U.S. and its partners are huge. If the program is a success, by 2030, JSF could make up 85% of the world's tactical fighter fleet. With that would come continued profits from sustainment and maintenance programs lasting 30-40 years.
After JSF, the only large military programs on the horizon are the rapidly merging long-range strike and surveillance efforts expected to produce a family of manned and unmanned aircraft. Therein lies a trap for General Electric (GE) and Rolls-Royce: They can't continue development of the F-136 if the JSF alternative engine program dies. But F-136 derivatives would be the only competition to Pratt & Whitney. The British government's stance appears uncompromising. Drayson says he is making clear the risk to U.K. participation because: "I know the British can be accused of understatement."
During the hearing, Drayson was asked by Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) if Britain was willing to contribute more money to fund the alternative program. Drayson says Britain had invested 2 billion pounds ($3.5 billion) into JSF "on the basis of a two-engine approach" and that a minimum buy of 3,000 aircraft would sustain that plan.
British concerns were only reinforced by the U.S. proposal to ax the alternative engine for the aircraft. The GE/Rolls-Royce F136 can be considered as the preferred engine for the U.K. aircraft because it potentially offers greater thrust growth. Drayson emphasizes the "potential growth capability the F136 offers" and adds, "We expect, as a level-one partner, to be properly consulted on decisions of this magnitude," implying that, on this occasion, the level of consultation was inadequate.
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