US Air Force Row Threatens British Contracts




 
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US Air Force Row Threatens British Contracts
 
June 16th, 2008  
Team Infidel
 
 

Topic: US Air Force Row Threatens British Contracts


US Air Force Row Threatens British Contracts
London Times
June 16, 2008 By David Robertson
The forced resignation of the top two officials in the United States Air Force (USAF) will have a ripple affect across the defence industry, potentially putting thousands of jobs in Britain at risk.
Michael Wynne, the Secretary of the Air Force, and General T. Michael Moseley, the Chief of General Staff, stepped down last week, prompting speculation that key projects could be scrapped.
Robert Gates, the US Secretary of Defence, asked for their resignations after a number of blunders, including the accidental shipment of ballistic missile fuses to Taiwan and the flying of live nuclear weapons across the United States in a B52 bomber. Analysts believe that the departures of Mr Wynne and General Moseley have put a number of USAF projects in doubt, such as the continued production of the F22 Raptor, the world's most sophisticated fighter.
Mr Gates has questioned the need for the F22 - which costs more than $150 million (£76.9 million) per aircraft - given that it has not been used in either Iraq or Afghanistan.
Mr Gates is also rumoured to want to cut a joint project by Rolls-Royce and General Electric (GE) to supply an alternative engine for the F35, or Joint Strike Fighter. Pratt & Whitney was given the initial contract to build the F35's engine, but after intense lobbying by Britain an alternative was added to the programme. Rolls-Royce's F136 engine is being developed at its facility in Bristol and with GE in Cincinnati, Ohio.
A defence industry source said: “This Rolls contract does now look more vulnerable because Gates is trying to kill a number of programmes and you do have to ask why this alternative engine is needed on an already over-budget project.”
The largest USAF procurement project at present is the $40 billion contract to build 179 refuelling tankers, which EADS won this year. The wings will be built at EADS's factory at Broughton in North Wales, which employs about 10,000 people.
However, Boeing has challenged the decision to award the contract to the owner of Airbus. The departure of General Moseley, in particular, could strengthen its hand. General Moseley was regarded as a champion of the tanker project and, without him to force the pace, the Pentagon may choose to recompete the contract to keep Boeing's backers in Congress happy. The Government Accountability Office is due to rule on Boeing's appeal this week.
General Moseley also championed the Combat, Search and Rescue (CSAR-X) helicopter. The $15 billion contract to build the helicopter was given initially to Boeing but the process is being held again, with compettion from Sikorsky and Lockheed Martin. Lockheed Martin is thought to be the favourite now, which would be a boost for AgustaWestland, its British partner. However, the departure of General Moseley could also mean this project being delayed.
Mr Gates's apathy towards the F22 may provide the Europeans with an opportunity. If the F22 assembly line is to be shut down, the Eurofighter Typhoon will be the most advanced combat jet in production, giving it a key marketing edge. If Japan, which is lobbying in Washington to buy the F22 as part of a $15 billion upgrade of its air defences, realises that the F22 will never be available, it may turn to the Typhoon.
 


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