Britain Agrees To Stay In F-35 Fighter Program

December 13th, 2006  
Team Infidel

Topic: Britain Agrees To Stay In F-35 Fighter Program

Miami Herald
December 13, 2006
The United States will share strike fighter technology as part of an agreement for Britain to remain in an international defense partnership.
By Dave Montgomery
WASHINGTON - Britain agreed Tuesday to remain a partner in the F-35 joint strike fighter program, resolving a contentious eight-month dispute that threatened to end the country's participation in the international aircraft project.
The agreement grants Britain's demand that the United States share sensitive strike fighter technology, which British officials said is vital to enable technicians to repair and maintain the nation's future F-35 fleet. Some U.S. officials feared that the so-called technology transfer would expose key U.S. defense secrets.
Britain is one of eight foreign countries helping the United States develop the F-35 Lightning II, a next-generation fighter being built by Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Britain's BAE systems. The partnership is at a critical juncture this year as the member countries decide whether to participate in the decades-long production phase.
First flight
The $276 billion aircraft program, the most expensive in history, may reach a long-awaited milestone this week with the expected first flight of an F-35 from a runway adjacent to Lockheed Martin's plant in Fort Worth, Texas. Lockheed Martin, which leads the manufacturing team, plans to build more than 2,500 F-35s for U.S. services and hundreds more for allied countries.
Lord Paul Drayson, Britain's defense procurement minister, joined Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England in signing a memorandum of understanding that commits British Prime Minister Tony Blair's government to move into the next phase of the F-35 project. Britain will invest $66 million on top of the initial $2 billion stake that made it the biggest foreign participant in the F-35 partnership.
Sealing the deal
Five countries, including the United States, have now formally agreed to remain in the program. Australia also signed an agreement Tuesday, following the Netherlands and Canada. The remaining partners -- Denmark, Italy, Norway and Turkey -- have indicated that they, too, plan to stay in the program, according to U.S. defense officials.
The eight foreign partners have thus far invested a total of $4.5 billion, obtaining a share of F-35 work for their defense industries while putting themselves on track for future F-35 purchases. But some countries have been unhappy with the size of their work share, while others, notably Britain, have demanded that they be given access to sensitive F-35 technology to enable them to maintain their Lightning II fleets independently of the United States.

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