Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon announced today that the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) offers the best potential to meet the MOD’s requirement to replace its Harrier and Sea Harrier aircraft early in the next decade.
Just before Geoff Hoon’s announcement, Baroness Symons, the UK Minister for Defence Procurement, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the US in Washington for the next stage of the JSF programme-Engineering and Manufacturing Development (EMD).
Mr Hoon said that ‘the JSF will not simply replace the Harrier, it will give the UK an aircraft that can take-off from an aircraft carrier and provide the agility of a light fighter with the punch of a bomber. Put simply, it will be the best aircraft of its type in the world.
Signing the MoU now will continue our involvement in the JSF programme as a full collaborative partner and will enable the UK to take part in the selection of the prime contractor for the next phase.
Participation in the JSF programme represents a tremendous opportunity for UK industry, UK companies are well represented in each of the competing consortia. We expect that work on the EMD phase will create or sustain 5,000 UK jobs in around 70 companies.
JSF will play a crucial part in continuing our transatlantic partnership, maintaining NATO interoperability and improving European military capability’.
One of the key longer-term issues of the Strategic Defence Review was whether to replace the current generation of aircraft carriers and their aircraft. The UK has been working with the US on the JSF programme, as full collaborative partners, since 1996, and has been able to influence the specification of the aircraft and direct the programme.
JSF will be a single seat, supersonic aircraft, incorporating stealth technology, capable of performing multi-role operations from aircraft carriers and from land. Two consortia, one led by Boeing and the other by Lockheed Martin, are competing. Demonstrator aircraft from both consortia have recently completed a series of initial flight trials.
The cost to the UK of the EMD phase will be in the order of £1.3 Billion, plus some further £600 Million to fund work on UK-specific requirements. Including export orders, the JSF production run may approach 5000 aircraft, estimated to be worth some $400 Billion through life. JSF may well be the largest ever military procurement programme.
Contracts are expected to be awarded for this phase of the programme later this year.