Home Les bulletins GEAB JSF, threat perception and global distrust: Three factors for a new transatlantic strategic context

JSF, threat perception and global distrust: Three factors for a new transatlantic strategic context

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

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