Bush, Blair Agree On F-35 Fighter Technology Transfer
Jim Wolf, Reuters
Sat, 27 May 2006, 00:12
The United States has agreed to step up BritainĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s access to sensitive technology in the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter being built by Lockheed Martin Corp., President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair said on May 26.
The radar-evading F-35 is the costliest warplane acquisition program ever at a projected $276.5 billion through 2027 for the total 2,593 jets that the United States and Britain plan to buy.
"Both governments agree that the UK will have the ability to successfully operate, upgrade, employ, and maintain the Joint Strike Fighter such that the UK retains operational sovereignty over the aircraft," they said in a joint statement.
At issue were such things as radar-evading technologies, know-how involving the aircraftĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s electronic brains and future weapons integration -- items Britain has equated with what it calls operational sovereignty.
The first F-35 is to be delivered in 2009 in the United States.
Britain has committed $2 billion to developing the fighter, more than twice the sum put up by the other partners -- Italy, the Netherlands, Turkey, Canada, Australia, Denmark and Norway.
BritainĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s minister for defense procurement, Paul Drayson, warned Washington in March that London would quit the co-development program unless BritainĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s technology-access needs were met.
"Without the technology transfer to give us the confidence to deliver an aircraft fit to fight on our terms, we will not be able to buy these aircraft," he told the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 14.
Bush and Blair said in the statement they were still working out details of the technology-transfer deal designed to clear the way for Britain to sign a pact on buying its planned F-35 fleet.
"The United States has no closer ally than the United Kingdom," the statement said, referring to their cooperation in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere in the U.S.-declared global war on terror.
U.S. officials have said they hope to wrap up talks with Britain and the other partners next month on how many F-35s they would buy. This would set the stage for a formal signing ceremony in December after purchase reviews are completed in the partner countries, officials said.
Bush and Blair also spoke in the statement of a need to enhance U.S.-British military cooperation.
They said the two countries must strengthen and deepen the relationship between their defense establishments, achieve fully interoperable forces and leverage the strength of their industries.