Uncertainty about the programme. Driving up costs for "other governments?" How can our government credibly maintain, with all these developments, that our costs would be under control? We have no contract now, it's hard to see the basis for their claims. (The U.K. government ordering fewer also reported here.)Aviation Week commenter and former Jane's Defence editor Bill Sweetman agrees:
That Star-Telegram report goes on to suggest that the move away from the F-35B (aircraft carrier version) by Britain could put the U.S. Navy's buy of that F-35 version in doubt too, opening the door to increased purchases of the Boeing Super Hornet. One analyst describes the UK's move away from the F-35B as "...disruptive to all aspects of the program schedule and costs."
There's not a lot of good news for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter in the UK review. A requirement for 138 F-35Bs has been wiped out and replaced by a smaller - possibly much smaller - number of F-35Cs. The UK's baseline plan is to retain only one carrier with a normal air wing comprising only 12 F-35Cs, while keeping the option to expand the wing to 36 jets - presumably by borrowing aircraft from the land-based units that replace the Tornado GR.4...
...That requirement could be met by a 50-aircraft order. But there is lots of time to make that decision because the catapult-modified Prince of Wales will not be operational for another ten years.
Meanwhile, competitors are starting to talk more boldly about taking on JSF. At Defense IQ's Fighter Conference in London today, Boeing vice-president for international business development Rick McCrary briefed predictions for the next ten years that included a start on technology development for a new Navy strike fighter in 2013 and EMD in 2016-17, as well as the extension of the Super Hornet as a "bridge" to the new program.
Neither Lockheed Martin or the countries involved in the project anticipated an enduring global recession and massive government deficits. But this is the reality now. LM might have thought that by spreading its bet by distributing interest in the platform around the world it ensured that project would remain viable. Governments would see the benefit of everyone buying and there would be incentive (coercion?) not to abandon participation. In effect however, Lockheed Martin built a house of cards, failing to realise that no country absolutely needs luxury platform like JSF and there would be tremendous political and economic counter-incentive for governments not sign if push came to shove.
I think it's now anyone's guess as to whether the program remains viable cost- or even production-wise. Canada really ought to start looking at other options.
And a tangential bet: The UK is retiring its Harrier force. These are the only fixed wing fast jets flying from the Royal Navy's carriers. As it stands the RN has a 9 year wait before the JSF is meant to come online for its two new carriers, one of which will be mothballed from the get-go. Carriers which HM government acknowledges it would have axed too if it were cost effective. I think there's a good chance the Harrier will be known as the last jet flown from UK carriers.
It is something to ponder that if 9/11 happened in the current economic climate, the US, UK and allies might not have so readily prosecuted small and costly wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
It is also interesting to note that a great deal of the present economic mess began with some prospective home buyers and a loans officer in the United States.