2006, a decisive year for the Joint Strike Fighter, or the aeronautic equivalent of the invasion of Iraq. The US attempt to impose the F35, Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) – the « 21st-century air-fighter », to their allies is one of the thorniest problems NATO must solve by autumn 2006. Born in the mid-90s, amidst the euphoria of a US convinced that the 21st-century belonged to them, the JSF project is equivalent in terms of armament programme to the invasion of Iraq in terms of strategy. The rationale is simple: to develop a multitask air-fighter (Air Force, Navy, …) adapted to the challenges of the first half of the new century, and have it co-financed by the Allies, in order to monopolise an central segment of the world’s military air force (and eliminate the competition as a result of the economy made thanks to a massive production of 5,000 units expected). On paper, everything is perfect. And that’s fine since it is planned that the plane will be sold “on paper” without any prior tests.
The United Kingdom, The Netherlands, Norway, Turkey, … the most faithful of Washington’s allies and/or those most interested in sharing part of the technological and economic fallouts of this wide- ranging JSF project, sign in. Opposite the JSF are three aircrafts, out of which two already in operation: the Swedish Gripen, the French Rafale and the EuroFighter jointly developed by Germany, the UK (which has two pies in the oven), Spain and Italy.
The JSF soon sinks into an endless series of technical and financial problems. The required “technological leaps” appear too complex and technologies improperly mastered by the US defence industry. Simultaneously, 9/11-related political constraints pile up on US technology transfers and limit the fallouts expected by foreign partners (see Turkey). Meanwhile their financial contributions are needed more than ever as JSF development expenses take off, contrary to the plane itself which remains a concept. The cost goes from 75 million USD up to 100 million USD per unit though the aircraft decreases in sophistication as a result of various decisions to abandon some equipments…
Read more in the GEAB No 4 / 16.04.2006