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- Joined: 13 Jun 2005, 00:20
By Jim Wolf
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Pentagon is seeking to cancel the Air Force
version of Lockheed Martin Corp.'s F-35, the world's biggest fighter
program, a leading defence consultant said Friday.
Gordon England, acting deputy secretary of defence, "is pushing to eliminate
one of the three aircraft versions, and the Air Force version is his
preferred kill" as a short-term economy measure, said Loren Thompson, citing
discussions with senior Pentagon and industry officials.
Thompson is chief operating officer of the Arlington, Virginia-based
Lexington Institute, a research group with close ties to the defence
Loss of the Air Force variant would be a blow to Lockheed which expects to
export that version, in particular, for decades to come.
Eight countries have joined the United States to co-develop the F-35, also
known as the Joint Strike Fighter. With a projected total program cost of
more than $250 billion, it involves what would be the Pentagon's most
expensive acquisition to date and a symbol of international cooperation.
The co-development partners are Britain, Italy, the Netherlands, Turkey,
Canada, Australia, Denmark and Norway.
If cut, the likely beneficiaries would be France's Rafale fighter, built by
Dassault Aviation; Eurofighter, a product of Finmeccanica, BAE Systems and
EADS; plus Gripen, built by Saab and BAE Systems.
The radar-evading F-35 was designed to serve the U.S. Air Force with a
standard model; the Navy, with a sturdier one for aircraft-carrier landings;
and the Marines, with a short take off and landing "jump jet"-style variant.
England wants the Air Force to buy the Navy version instead of getting its
own, said Thompson.
In an October 19 memorandum, England ordered military leaders to find $32
billion in cuts over the next five years and said they might have to dig
even deeper as President Bush's fiscal 2007 budget proposal takes shape.
No final decisions would be made until a high-level meeting on Monday,
England wrote at the time. The White House is due to send its final budget
goals to this session.
Navy Capt. Kevin Wensing, a spokesman for England, declined to comment on
belt-tightening measures under study in the so-called Quadrennial Defence
Review, a strategy analysis done every four years and due to go to Congress
in coming months.
A knowledgeable Pentagon official noted that England, as secretary of the
Navy, had integrated the Navy and Marine Corps aviation programs starting in
2002. Consolidating a number of air wings, he has been credited with saving
"billions of dollars," said this official who asked not to be named.
Lockheed Martin has not been notified of any changes to its programs, said
John Smith, a spokesman in Fort Worth, where the fighters are being
Apart from Britain, which plans to buy the vertical-takeoff variant, all
international partners plan to buy the Air Force model, said Richard
Aboulafia of Teal Group, a Fairfax, Virginia, aerospace consultancy.
Aboulafia said a decision to scrap the Air Force version would save a
"couple billion" in development costs but eat into U.S. dominance of
fighter-export markets for years to come.
Christopher Bolckom, top warplane expert with the nonpartisan Congressional
Research Service, said he expected any push to kill the Air Force version to
meet resistance in Congress and among co-development partners.
bring_it_on1 wrote:But the Navy version isn't going to have an internal gun. The plan for them is to use a pod...
Wasnt the missionized gun for the B varient rather then the C varient.
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