NBMR-1 Light Strike-Fighter
(NATO Basic Military Requirement)
In September 1950, NATO's Military Committee had called for an ambitious buildup of conventional forces to meet the Soviets, subsequently reaffirming this position at the February 1952 meeting of the Atlantic Council in Lisbon which had established a goal of ultimately fielding 96 divisions in the event of a conventional war in 1954. At the Lisbon Conference, it was decided to create an International Staff, one of whose duties was to assist in the co-ordinated planning of defense production in Europe. In June 1952, a bare two months after the International Staff had been assembled in Paris, the US Government gave them their first Opening. They said that, if a sound plan could be devised for the production of additional military aircraft in Europe, the US would be prepared to place offshore procurement contracts in Europe on condition that European Government, for their part, would find sufficient additional finance to make the programme worthwhile. In July 1952, the International Staff presented the result of their studies to the Council, who commended it to governments.
On 23 April 1953 NATO announced a $550,000,000 aircraft program. At the Minister's first meeting, Lord Ismay reported that, after 10 months study and hard work, contracts had been signed for the manufacture in Europe of more than $550 millions' worth of combat aircraft for the allied air forces. Practically all these aircraft would be delivered by June 1956.
This plan provided for the production of military aircraft in Belgium, France, Italy, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. Prolonged bilateral negotiations followed, in which numerous financial, technical and productions problems arose. All these were eventually overcome and the United States Government signed offshore procurement contracts for military aircraft to the value of $281,540,000 with Belgium, France, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. An additional contract with Italy was in negotiation.
These United States offshore procurement contracts made provision for the delivery of substantial numbers of the British Hawker "Hunter" and the French "Mystère". The largest single order placed by the United States was for Hawker "Hunter" interceptor planes costing $140 millions, to be built in the United Kingdom. A contract signed with France valued at $86,540,000 is for the Dassault "Mystère" Mark IV, a jet interceptor fighter. The Hawker "Hunter" will also be produced on the Continent for the first time, under US offshore contracts with Belgium and the Netherlands totalling $42 millions. The United Kingdom agreed to grant licences for this purpose. The US contract with the Netherlands, subject to final confirmation by the latter Government, was for $18 millions, and with Belgium for $24 millions. The Italian contract, when details were completed, called for the assembling in Italy of the American F-86D all-weather fighter plans.
In addition to these agreements, the United States Navy signed a contract with the United Kingdom Government to buy a quantity of the Hawker "Sea Hawk" aircraft costing $13 million under the off-shore procurement program. It was designed and developed for use by the Royal Navy and helped replace obsolete carrier-based interceptor aircraft now in service. The Belgian and Netherlands Governments for their part decided to purchase the equivalent of $117 millions' worth of Hawker "Hunter" interceptor aircraft, to be built in those two countries under a co-operative agreement. The Netherlands participation was subject to Cabinet approval. The French Government placed orders equivalent to $91 millions for the Dassault "Mystère" Mark II and IV ground support and interceptor aircraft. The United Kingdom let contracts for the production of $70 millions' worth of Vickers Supermarine "Swift" interceptor aircraft. In addition to these contracts, Belgium, the Netherlands and Norway have agreed to buy a large number of all-weather fighters.
It must be emphasised that the funds subscribed for this program for the manufacture of certain types of military aircraft were only a proportion of the money being spent by European members of NATO on aircraft production. In certain of these countries extensive aircraft production programmes had already been adopter before this joint programme was proposed.
The equipment of the airforces of some member states had hitherto been dependent to a certain extent upon US aircraft. This dependence was not only strategically unsound and logistically unwise, but the maintenance and replacement of United States-built aircraft imposed a considerable additional burden upon the limited dollar ressources of European Governments. Now that six Allied Governments had decided to pool their ressources, production facilities, technical skill, manpower and money in a joint enterprise, not only would the European aircraft industry be greatly strengthened, but the North Atlantic airforces will be equipped with the most modern aircraft and NATO will have taken a long step forward in furtherance of its planned force build-up.
This was the first example of a major coordinated arms production program based on an international plan devised by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. It had been put into effect and its existence was fresh evidence of the continuing determination of member governments to work together for their common defence. It was the intention that it should be the forerunner of many others.
In 1953 the North American Treaty Organization (NATO) established a requirement for a light strike-fighter, which resulted in a competition among a number of western European aircraft manufacturers. NATO specification requested a light strike fighter with rough field capability capable of 0.9 Mach, which would have been adopted by all NATO allies for training purposes.
The completion included the Northrop F-5A, Dassault Etendard IV, the Breguet Taon, and several other aircraft. Eventually, the British pulled out to develop the Hawker Hunter, while the French decided to work independently of the competition. The Italian government gave the go-ahead to Fiat for production of the G.91 while the competition was underway. The Fiat G.91 made its first flight on 09 August 1956. Following extensive testing, in 1957 the G.91 was selected as NATO's standard strike fighter. The second place in this contest was the Northrop F 5 Freedom Fighter.
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