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The UK's acquisition of Joint Strike Fighters could be reduced if UCAVs become available, Britain's vice-chief of the defense staff said in Washington on Monday. Speaking at a forum Monday organized by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Gen Sir Nicholas Houghton said that he was "not in a position to give figures" on the UK's JSF buy, but indicated that the aircraft will be acquired in two tranches (batches), one to equip the carrier and the second to replace Tornado in land-based operations. "We know the numbers that we need for carrier operations but we have not fully identified the number we need for ground-based capabilities." Factors in sizing the second batch include "the lifetime of Tornado [most recently planned to fly until 2025] and the arrival of unmanned combat air vehicles." BAE Systems' Taranis stealth UCAV demonstrator was rolled out in July. Interestingly, even before the new Anglo-French agreement was announced, some European sources were noticing closer collaboration - one contact calls it "a phase of passionate love" - between BAE and Dassault, which is leading the development of the Neuron UCAV. One issue is whether Sweden and Italy will be ready to support Neuron beyond its current test stage.
ar99, tacair, jsf, f-35
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