15 March 2006. Lord Drayson, in his first visit to Washington as Minister for Defence Procurement, set out the UK’s perspective of the JSF programme to the influential Senate Armed Services Committee.
Lord Drayson, accompanied by Sir Jock Stirrup, Chief of the Air Staff, will outline to the committee (whose members include Senators Warner, McCain, Levin, Kennedy, Clinton and Dole), the importance of the programme to the UK’s future military capability and ability to make a significant contribution to future joint operations with both the United States and other Allies.
Lord Drayson said: “Our aim is to ensure that future generations of UK and US servicemen and women can continue to stand shoulder to shoulder in pursuit of common goals. Increasingly we recognise that this will depend upon access to common technology. With its increasing complexity, and the growing importance of expeditionary fighting power, the necessity to share information and technology between our two great nations both in relation to JSF and more generally is ever more vital.
“Whilst I appreciate the concerns of some in the US about the issue of Technology Transfer, the British public expect their Government to equip our Armed Forces with the very best and I am determined to best represent the interests of our national security and our British Service personnel.
“The next key milestone in the programme, the signing of the Production, Containment and Follow-On Development MOU will commit the United Kingdom to the whole life of the JSF program. We must therefore be sure to understand the nature and balance of the obligations between our nations consistent with the principles of the agreements on JSF we have signed to date. Operational sovereignty, the ability to integrate, upgrade, operate and sustain the aircraft as we see fit and without recourse to others is of paramount importance.
“Let me state our bottom line. These issues are important to us because they enable us to make the judgement that the aircraft are “fit to fight” and we can send our airmen and women into action in that knowledge. This decision has to be one for the UK, indeed the British Government’s responsibility to our Armed Forces, and their families, means that this judgement can only be made by the UK. If we do not have the information and technology needed to make that decision, then I shall not be able to sign the MOU. I recognise the consequences that would have on the UK’s continuing participation in the programme.
“The UK Government will continue to work tirelessly with the US to resolve this problem once and for all. The UK committed to the JSF program at a very early stage and, as Level 1 partners, we remain committed. I hope that we can find a way which will meet our requirements for sovereign capability while protecting the US national security requirements.
“We have no reason to believe that our discussions with the administration will not be successful but without the technology transfer to give us the confidence to deliver an aircraft fit to fight on our terms we will not be able to buy these aircraft. I am spelling this out because it is so important to make our intentions clear. I know the British can be accused of understatement.”
Lord Drayson, commenting on the issue of the second Rolls Royce engine said:
“The F136 inserts an important competitive element to the JSF programme by providing an alternative choice for the aircraft engine both at initial acquisition and, importantly, through life, with all the monetary savings that this will offer us both. There is also the potential growth capability that the F-136 offers as a new generation engine. We believe the F136 engine will lead to lower through-life costs and deliver the best outcome for both our warfighters and our taxpayers.
“For these reasons and given the importance of the project to Rolls Royce, we expect, as a level 1 partner, to be properly consulted on decisions of this magn