Wednesday, 25 November 2009

F35 Operational Sovereignty Buggered

Today, a charming story comes across demonstrating the dangers of dealing with the Americans on Military procurement.

"US to withhold F-35 fighter software codes"

I was quite impressed a few years ago how the government made it pretty damn clear that the source codes to the software were required in order for us to continue with the F35 project. The Americans understood how important it was (afterall, we are a much higher tier partner than "Italy, the Netherlands, Turkey, Canada, Australia, Denmark and Norway" mentioned in the linked article). Well, a deal was done at the time and everything was happy.

However, less than three years later (which is of course nothing in terms of Defence programmes) the Americans have announced that they're going to screw us. It's clearly not enough for them to force us to buy American missiles to fire off the aircraft and charge us incredible amounts to have our missiles cleared for carriage on it (There was a fun rumour that the weapons bay is exactly a few mm less than needed to carry Meteor, just to make us buy more AMRAAM).

A few years back we bought eight Chinooks at great expense. We hadn't agreed as part of the contract that Boeing should give us access to the source codes (Does this sound familiar to anyone?). As a result they've been sitting in a hanger unable to fly since 2002. Afterall, it's not like we've got any need of helicopters at the moment...

This story shows how we then paid another £150m to down-grade the helicopters to the same spec as the rest in service with the RAF. At least they'll be doing something useful soon.

There is frequently a drive to buy into American procurement programmes in order to buy our kit. There's a lot of logic behind that with bulk discounts and similar economies of scale. However, it's clear that time and time again, stretching from the Quebec Agreement that where possible the Americans will do their best to fuck us over.

Well, what should we do about this? Simple. Cancel our F35 buy. Don't put it on hold, or "consider our options". Cancel it completely.

We are a Tier One partner in this project. We've helped design huge chunks of it. We've reinvented our concept of RVL to ensure that the B variant will actually bloody work. Fuck them, we won't need this aircraft for a hell of a long time, certainly long enough to procure something else if needed. Or in time, we return to the table with a far stronger negotiating position than our current one, which appears to be modeled on the girls in the kind of porn Harman wouldn't like.

It's about time this country sent a strong message about it's willingness to stand up to bullies, whether they're Somalian Pirates, or the world's largest Superpower.


  1. Agreed. Lord Drayson made it clear at the time that full operational sovereignty was required, and it still is.

    Cutting the JSF will save us something like £5bn (on top of the £5bn+ cuts already implied by only buying for one carrier), which will buy a good few wokkas and frigates.

  2. The King of Wrong,

    I wrote a reply to this yesterday, but it seems to have been eaten by the internet.

    I still think we should build the carriers, such things have proved to be useful before and no doubt will be again. We've actually probably got enough Chinooks (though not enough small cheap ships) just not enough spares and crews to fly them all.

    We don't actually need the planes for the carriers for quite some time (afterall, the last thing we want is to be working up both at the same time), so we've got a bit of breathing space.