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U.S CARRIER TO G8 – GUNBOAT DIPLOMACY OR SALES DRIVE?

20 May 05 The story in the Times that the cost of hosting this summer’s G8 summit in Scotland is spiralling towards £100 million — five times the amount pledged by the Government — making it by far the biggest such operation on British soil.

As well as the threat from terrorists, there are fears of violence and mayhem with up to 30,000 protesters expected at the summit. Scottish media reported yesterday that an American aircraft carrier will be stationed off the west coast during the summit and fighter jets at an RAF base near St Andrews, Fife, will be on standby.

The U.K. was known as the U.S.’s aircraft carrier in WWI and the U.S. has numerous airbases in the U.K. to accommodate any air defence required for the G8.

So is this coals to Newcastle or is George W. on a sales trip to the U.K. to get the Government out of the current budget crisi in MoD procurement? Then CVBF project which has to date cost a staggering £169m in consultants fees appears little further forward in development apart from the fact that it looks as if the 60000 tonne version will be chosen to accommodate the Hawkeye aircraft.

However Boeing is believed to be pushing hard on export sales for the E/F 18 Hornet as it is furious at losing its Navy work to Lockheed on the JSF. Given the much reported problems of the JSF program and the reluctance of the USAF to give up its F-22’s could the project start to crumble? The aircraft would no longer be ‘Joint’ if the USAF did not use it. In addition Austrlia has delayed its next investment phase and the U.K. is still negotiating over ITARs.

One solution could be that the V/STOL version may be cancelled due to price and weight problems which would put the conventional version head-to-head with E/F 18 which is a well-regarded aircraft and a mature system.

If the U.K. were to be offered second-hand U.S. carriers that are due to be mothballed this would get the MoD out of a hole and save huge sums of money on CVF development. We understand that David Whitetree of IDEEA Inc. offered the MoD access to the LPD 17 design team to build CVF that was rejected. In addition this would provide Boeing with a much needed E/F 18 export order. Typhoon as, as it stands, unable to land on carriers, so the alternative would be to have Rafale or conventional JSF on the carriers? With the JSF program slipping and the unlikely event of the UK buying a French aircraft, George W.’s sales trip might find welcome nears.

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