Britain, America, and the F-35 JSF

At the tail end of last Friday’s Linkzookery, I noted a Defense Industry Daily article about how legal issues surrounding the secret stuff in the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter might be threatening the UK’s participation in the program.

Joe Katzman, the editor of DID, has a lengthy, in-depth post up at Winds of Change on this subject, and Murdoc’s got to admit that things don’t look good.

Check it out at Britain’s F-35 Pullout Threat, And The Future of the Anglosphere

It’s one thing to decide that a program doesn’t fit military needs, and pull out or reduce orders. It’s another thing for your closest ally to more or less decide that they can’t work with you on major defense development projects. Which is exactly what a JSF program pullout would represent.

Though the issue of super-secret military technology transfer, namely the source code of the F-35’s software, is at the heart of the matter, there’s a lot more to this than losing a customer to the Eurofighter. But where the weight of the problem weighs is unclear.

Joe writes

If Britain goes, a bunch of bad things are going to happen – and the damage will go all the way to the foundations of the US – British alliance. Most Americans aren’t even aware that this issue exists, let alone how serious it has become. It’s time to pay attention.


Real allies, who stand with you when the going gets tough, are special. The kind of people – and countries – worth being a friend like that FOR will go out out of their way for their real friends. Sometimes a long way out their way. The USA, and the Republicans in Congress who believe wholeheartedly in its larger mission, need to step back and focus on what’s really important…These are your best friends we’re talking about, Congressmen. Act like it.

I don’t believe that anyone questions where Britain stands, and that is ‘squarely with us’. But an apparent disregard for those who have stuck their necks out with/for us isn’t anything new, of course. Recall the denial of Polish requests for additional armored Humvees.

But there are two sides to every story, and another angle on the Polish armored Humvee story that alternative take was pointed out here on MO the next day. An alternative take on the F-35 story is voiced by the first commenter on the Winds post:

It sounds like Britain hasn’t decided whether it wishes to be a European or Anglospheric power.

Murdoc freely and readily admits that this is a bit over his head, especially the legal aspect. While I’d like to afford my closest and stoutest ally every favor and waiver requested, we don’t want to learn ten years from now that due to a leak leading to a leak leading to a leak among friends, someone on the other side of the fence just quadrupled their ability to shoot down our front line strike aircraft. Or that a potential adversary jumped ahead five years in their development of advanced aircraft because someone hid a thumb drive in the bottom of a stainless steel coffee cup somewhere.

Of course, those same risks apply even if we don’t tell ANYONE anything. Spies and bad guys abound, even in the good old US of A. We don’t need to share secrets with allies for those secrets to be stolen.

I guess, if I’ve got to choose sides, I’m on the side of giving your biggest strongest baddest toughest closest tightest ally the benefit of the doubt. If you are at all interested in this deal or the ramifications of this problem, do yourself a favor and take the time to read Joe’s post. Plus the comments section.

Finally, check out the Manufacturing Gallery at Here are a couple shots:


  1. I think on balance, we need to just trust the Brits. Look at the downsides, and weigh them: * some technology might get leaked to parties we would much rather have remained in the dark. Possible bad. * we piss off our best ally in the world, and compromise that nation’s ability to fight with us instead of near us, plus give free customers to Chinese connected French aerospace companies. That’s pretty much a no brainer. With some suitable requirements, we should have near automatic waivers for the Brits and the Australians in these matters. And, the more I think about the whole Anglosphere thingy, the more I dig it. I just finished reading Robert Conquest’s ‘Reflections on a Ravaged Century,’ and at the end, he suggests something very similar. A project worth supporting, I think.

  2. They can’t have it both ways. Either give us very strong assurances that the technology we are developing will not be transferred to France or any other third party, or, buy from the French and shut-up. The French have no problem selling anything short of nukes to anyone with cash. No way should we be waiving ITAR rules for a country openly cooperating with France on military technology programs with real safeguards. How many new Roland missiles were fired at our troops in Iraq? Good point on Britain not being sure if they want to be European or Anglosheric. The next election cycle will probably decide the issue. Blair has been pushing the EU hard even while supporting us in Iraq. It can’t work long-term – it’s one or the other.

  3. Well, one or the other- unless France joins the anglosphere! Granted ever since they half-withdrew from ‘OTAN’ they’ve been more of a one frenchie band, but its not like its always been that way. Once upon time there were people like comte de Rochambeau for example.. Where are they now?

  4. Not sure the Angloshere wants France. In fact, I’m pretty sure we don’t want much to do with France as it currently exists politically and socially. Since the Germans are not presently invading France, I doubt they want much to do with us either.

  5. I don’t think the germans want much to do with when they are invading france-especially then! Speaking of which, aren’t they overdue for invading something?

  6. The French have no problem selling anything short of nukes to anyone with cash.’ Didnt we sell weapons to Saddam? Didnt we sell him chemical weapons?? Yeah, you really have something there with your french bashing. yes, very deep and meaningfull. Oh and our close ally Israel- when Pollard was caught spying for them, all that information he got- the USSR got it all. aldrich ames level of information. and one theory is they traded it for jews from the USSR…and of course recently we had to restrain them from selling advanced weapons to the chinese… selling nearly anything to anyone- welcome to the world of international arms sales, and the US is the biggest dealer.

  7. Heh, remember this incident?

    In 1948, the Soviet MiG design bureau developed a high-performance jet fighter design called the I-310. It incorporated some advanced features, such as a 35-degree wing sweep, and it promised to be a sprightly performer. However, the design lacked one essential component: A suitable engine. This problem was resolved when the British government authorized the Rolls-Royce company to export their Nene turbojet engine to Russia. As soon as the Russian Klimov design bureau received the engines, they immediately developed their own copy of the Nene, called the Klimov RD-45. Within months, the first prototype of the I-310 had flown with the new engine. The aircraft was redesignated MiG-15 and entered service early in 1949.

    The USA was not too happy about that.

  8. Steve – you got me – I really should preview my posts. Thanks Murdoc Aaron, I was referring to the Roland missiles being fired at our armor during Iraqi Freedom. When a French spokeswoman went on CNN to deny selling such weapons since the first Gulf War, the Marine holding a captured Roland turned it over to expose the post 1991 date and model number. She had nothing more to say. I will continue to cheerfully bash the French – they suck. More importantly, I’m glad our Congressional leaders will not risk exposing our latest military technology to them.

  9. > They can’t have it both ways. It’s worth noting that most of the British people are far more pro-USA than pro-EU. By and large, we (the British people) do not want the EU. The last time we, the British people, actually got to vote our country’s membership the EU was before I was even born. Furthermore, the electorate at that time voted for a EEC (European Economic Community – i.e. a simple free trade zone), not a socialist superstate EU (Europe Union). > Either > give us very strong assurances that > the technology we are developing > will not be transferred to France > or any other third party It’s interesting to note who this ‘we’ is here (in terms of ‘the technology we are developing’). As I understand it, some of this JSF-related secret technology is actually being developed by British companies (or US subsidiaries of British companies). > How many new Roland missiles > were fired at our troops in Iraq? It’s also worth noting that Euromissile Rolands shot down British Tornados in the first Gulf War… > The next election cycle will > probably decide the issue. Indeed but it needs to be made into a even more consciously considered issue. British political parties are out of step with the majority of the British people on this issue. However, I saw positive signs on this at the last general election. The Liberal Democrats, the most pro-EU of the major UK political parties, avoided mentioning the EU for the majority of their election campaign: They knew it would be a vote-losing proposition if they meantioned it. > Blair has been pushing the EU hard > even while supporting us in Iraq. Worse, Blair has recently given in and betrayed the UK on the EU budget. He has committed us to a 60% increase without getting the French (mainly the French) to reconsider the massive subsidies that their agriculture industry receives. Mark (a Brit)

  10. > More importantly, I’m glad our > Congressional leaders will not risk > exposing our latest military > technology to them. I quite agree, although one should remember that a) The British are the British, and the Frogs are the Frogs. We are not them, thank goodness; and b) Some of that technology is actually developed and owned commercially by British companies (or subsidiaries of British companies). As I understand it, much of it is our technology too. Mark (a Brit)