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30 Nov 03. The FT reported that the UK has signed an agreement with the US government that will facilitate the exchange of sensitive military technology and strengthen co-operation on the international $200bn Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) programme.

The programme, in which BAE Systems holds key contracts, is expected to lead to the largest volume of fighter production in the world. The US and UK armed forces have committed themselves to buying about 3,000 aircraft.

The agreement between the US and the UK, the latest in a series of eight, includes access to software programmes that run aircraft systems. It comes against a background of strained relations between the US and the UK on the sharing of military technology. Earlier this year, US legislators attempted to pass laws through Congress that would have placed further restrictions on the purchase of defence equipment from non-US suppliers. Boeing and BAE Systems recently signed an agreement that gave BAE more than £400m of work if the Royal Air Force picked the US group’s aircraft for a new air refuelling fleet.

Comment: This is a good development in the JSF project and justifies the UK’s £1bn investment. It vindicates Dick Evans’s worries over the ITAR on JSF and hopefully this deal will create the Warton plant as a European centre of excellence for the aircraft. This will bolster the Warton plant’s viability as sources close to BATTLESPACE suggest that the delay in the signature for the Tranche 2 Eurofighter Typhoon contract may result in redundancies of as many as 8000 people at the BAE Systems Warton plant.

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