UK Concerned About F-35 Slowdown

The UK’s new defense (or should I say defence) secretary, Philip Hammond, today acknowledged that he is worried that further cuts or slowdowns to the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program will hurt Britain’s ability to rebuild its aircraft carrier fighter force later this decade.

Remember, the UK decided to buy nearly 100 F-35C carrier variant JSFs for its new Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers. However, it recently retired its fleet of Harrier jump jets, leaving the Royal Navy without carrier strike aircraft for the first time since before World War II. (As Hammond acknowledged today, a Royal Navy with aircraft carriers but no jets to fly from them is “a caricaturists dream.”) Britain plans to by the F-35Cs by the end of the decade. The problem is, the Pentagon is slowing the F-35 program yet again and will likely delay the delivery of 120 or more jets.

Hammond, on his first official visit to Washington, said he would be signing an agreement today on how the UK will rebuild its naval strike fighter fleet in the face of budget cuts and an F-35 slowdown.

“One of things I’ll begin to understand later on today in the meetings I’m having will be what, if any, impact the announcements being made today will have on the Joint Strike Fighter program,” said Hammond. The announcements he was referring to are the Pentagon’s unveiling of its 21st Century security strategy, a document that will guide weapons buys and cuts going forward.

He then gave a clue as to what the future of European defense will look like as the U.S. withdraws more troops from the continent and refocuses on Asia. Basically, Britain and France are going to have to field aircraft carriers to ensure the continent has that kind of power-projection capability at the ready since America will be focused elsewhere.

(Keep in mind that the UK and France have signed an agreement that calls for interoperability and even some joint-manning among France’s carrier, the De Gaulle and the Royal Navy’s two new Queen Elizabeth class ships.)

“We are committed to purchasing the carrier-variant and the regeneration of our carrier strike force is at the heart of our defense strategy. We believe it will bring a big gain for NATO and potentially be a big relief to U.S. efforts in the European sphere. We’ve worked with the French to ensure that we will have a European carrier capability [that’s] always available. But of course, we are concerned that any slippage in production or any reduction in U.S. numbers will have an impact [on cost] and with budgets very tight, we’ll be watching very close any movement in the predicted unit costs.”

13 Comments on "UK Concerned About F-35 Slowdown"

  1. "leaving the Royal Navy without carrier strike aircraft"

    Sounds like a good time to retake the Falklands!

  2. "Britain and France are going to have to field aircraft carriers to ensure the continent has that kind of power-projection capability at the ready since America will be focused elsewhere."

    You mean France and Britain will have to subsidize European military defense/offense instead of America? Score!

  3. He should be worried….
    For the next 10 months until the November elecltions ANYTHING can happen…..

  4. Time to look into leasing a few Super Hornets I think!

  5. If the Brits want F-35s now on the spot they can start paying for R&D and fielding of the plane now. Im tired of the US paying for everyone's planes tanks guns ect. time for them to pay for it!

  6. 100? Closer to a handful of F-35Cs.

    What is bad now, is that the F-35C (like the other variants) has paper thin weight margins and lots of problems.

    I wonder what the MOD will think when they find out their alternate F-35 won't get aboard ship because the hook is in the wrong place?
    http://goo.gl/KeUIG

    Their carrier program (with the rest of the MOD in yard sale mode) just can't buy a break.

  7. The F-35 is too complex and doesn't deliver nearly the capability that it offers. The Super Hornet with International Road Map upgrades is the best option for carrier based strike fighters.

  8. So how many years Is the Fleet Air Arm not going to have any jet pilots? What good are F35C's if every experienced Naval Aviator has been laid off?

  9. Why weird ? the Uk pilots can actually fly low level unlike US pilots who seem to hang around 10000ft like some glorified Airline pilots.

  10. Some how it seems the Royal Navy is facing the same mess as it did when they bought the Phantom II's From the US. Promise of a great plane, but actual product not so good & costing more than the home built stuff it replaced.

  11. The Brits will be lucky, if after ten years they end up with one functioning light carrier and a couple squadrons of SuperBugs. The other make-work project posing as an aircraft carrier will end up being sold at a huge loss to India. Or maybe to a Chinese hotel magnate…

    Unless it doesn't work at all, in which case the idiot Canadian govt will no doubt snap it up to share dock space with our reliably dysfunctional Brit subs…

  12. Maybe the US Government should step aside, let all the foreign countries in the world buy the F-35 first as I'm sure Saudi Arabia would want a few dozen F-35A fighter jets.

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