Wednesday, October 20, 2010

And then there were three...

Update (Thursday a.m.) below.

Further to a previous post setting out the delays of F-35 purchases by Norway and the Netherlands, the U.K. is reported to be following the same path:
The government also has opted to reduce its F-35 buy. Britain will shift its carrier-based version to the F-35C, away from the short-takeoff-and-vertical-landing B version. How many F-35s will be bought, as well as whether the Royal Navy and Air Force will use the same type, remains to be sorted out. A defense official says those decisions may await the next review in five years, leaving a lot of uncertainty about the program.
Future prospects for the F-35 joint strike fighter program got a lot murkier Tuesday after British government officials announced plans to delay and dramatically trim their purchases of the warplane from Lockheed Martin.

The sweeping review of defense programs unveiled by Prime Minister David Cameron envisions cutting purchases of F-35s from 138 planes to as few as 40. It would also delay the first orders until later this decade and switch the type of jet the British navy will operate.

The moves by the British, who for 15 years have been the foremost ally of the Pentagon in planning and paying for development of the F-35, figure to drive up the costs of buying aircraft for the U.S. and other governments and lead to further delays by other nations expected to buy the jets.
Uncertainty about the programme. Driving up costs for "other governments?" How can our government credibly maintain, with all these developments, that our costs would be under control? We have no contract now, it's hard to see the basis for their claims. (The U.K. government ordering fewer also reported here.)

That Star-Telegram report goes on to suggest that the move away from the F-35B (aircraft carrier version) by Britain could put the U.S. Navy's buy of that F-35 version in doubt too, opening the door to increased purchases of the Boeing Super Hornet. One analyst describes the UK's move away from the F-35B as "...disruptive to all aspects of the program schedule and costs."

Meanwhile, what are we hearing in Canada from the one-noters? "F-35 is the only plane in town: Senior official." Perhaps our Conservatives could tell the allies. Instead of jumping on board and signalling large orders like we are, they're delaying and reducing their purchases. You have to wonder what kind of bubble we're living in.

Update (Thursday a.m.): Boris at TGB has more.