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  • SDSR And The JSF
    Posted by Bill Sweetman 6:15 PM on Oct 19, 2010

    There's not a lot of good news for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter in the UK review. A requirement for 138 F-35Bs has been wiped out and replaced by a smaller - possibly much smaller - number of F-35Cs. The UK's baseline plan is to retain only one carrier with a normal air wing comprising only 12 F-35Cs, while keeping the option to expand the wing  to 36 jets - presumably by borrowing aircraft from the land-based units that replace the Tornado GR.4.

    That requirement could be met by a 50-aircraft order. But there is lots of time to make that decision because the catapult-modified Prince of Wales will not be operational for another ten years.

    Meanwhile, note this aside from the full UK report: "Overall, the carrier-variant of the JSF will be cheaper, reducing through-life costs by around 25%." This is not good even if the UK didn't include the added costs of cats, wires and deck-landing training in its calculations. If they did...

    Could this mean that the F-35B itself is vulnerable? Granted, it's a long time since the Marines lost a budget fight, but most people expect that to happen with the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle. And as DTI has reported, changes in the role of the Marine Corps could reduce the added value that STOVL brings to the force.

    Losing the UK requirement will increase the cost of the F-35B, but a more subtle aspect is this: until now, F-35B defenders could argue that delaying, cutting back, or reviewing the STOVL variant was political dynamite because it would leave the main international partner's defense program dead in the water. That's no longer the case.

    It's not the best time for the STOVL version to be restricted from powered-lift operations.

    Meanwhile, competitors are starting to talk more boldly about taking on JSF. At Defense IQ's Fighter Conference in London today, Boeing vice-president for international business development Rick McCrary briefed predictions for the next ten years that included a start on technology development for a new Navy strike fighter in 2013 and EMD in 2016-17, as well as the extension of the Super Hornet as a "bridge" to the new program.

    "It certainly isn't" the Navy program of record, he said, but Boeing holds the view that anti-access threats - such as China's anti-ship ballistic missile - will push the Navy into looking for a bigger increase in range than the F-35C offers.

    Tags: ar99, tacair, jsf, uk

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