Vagaries Continue To Cloud U.K. F-35 Agenda
Aug 12, 2011 By Robert Wall
"After years of suffering massive program delays and cost overruns, the U.K. Defense Ministry has set out an aggressive agenda to ensure procurement decisions are grounded in fiscal reality and based on program certainty.
However, in one of its first major modernization moves—choosing to buy the carrier variant of the Joint Strike Fighter instead of the F-35B short-takeoff-and-vertical-landing (Stovl) version—London acted without firmly grasping the associated operational and cost implications. It also appears to have committed to the procurement despite lacking the means to fully fund the program, violating another principle of its reform agenda.
For instance, the move to the carrier version (CV) has caused the Defense Ministry to explore air-to-air refueling capabilities in case of a disruption on the flight deck during recovery operations. The U.K. has asked Lockheed Martin to assess the feasibility of using the F-35C in a buddy-buddy refueling mode. Under rules of the JSF program, countries must themselves fund studies into unique capabilities they want for an aircraft. Since the U.S. can rely on F/A-18E/F Super Hornets as carrier-based refuelers, the U.K. has to finance the engineering assessment on its own.
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