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UK should not buy US joint fighters without technology, say MPs

IRNA - Islamic Republic News Agency

London, Dec. 8, IRNA
The British government should not agree to buy the new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter from the US unless Washington shares its secret technology, an all-party group of MPs warned Friday.

The UK is planning on buying some 138 F-35s as part of the estimated Dlrs 276.5 billion Anglo-US project, which has been dogged by wrangles over whether Britain would be given access to technical information powering the high-tech aircraft.

But the parliamentary Defence Select Committee said an assurance was needed from the US "by the end of the year" that all the details would be given to the UK to allow independent operation.

It was still "uncertain" whether the US was prepared to supply the required information and the British government should develop a "plan B" to acquire alternative aircraft, if a deal is not struck, the committee said.

The Joint Strike Fighter, the world's most expensive military project, is expected to take to the skies for its maiden test flight next week.

The US will account for the lion's share of the Lockheed Martin- designed plane, with 2,400 in service by 2027, while Britain's BAE Systems is one of the key players, investing some Dlrs 2 bn in the aircraft's development.

The all-party group of MPs warned that backing off from the deal would constitute a "serious blow" to defence co-operation between the UK and America, but said other options had to be considered.

It also expressed "concern" that delays in production of the aircraft could lead to an increase in cost of between 25 per cent and 35 per cent.

In its report on defence procurement, the committee also highlighted that the equipment was urgently needed by UK Forces in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Particular concern was expressed about Pnds 205 million (Dlrs 400 m) on eight American Chinook Mk3 helicopters, that were housed in hangars and were still not being used as the UK "negotiates with Boeing about responsibility for solving a software problem."


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