F35 – Back to Plan B

RAF_F-35B

If the Guardian is to be believed the MoD is considering switching back to the STOVL version of the F35 Joint Strike Fighter. http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2012/mar/01/uk-aircraft-carrier-us-strike-fighter You can have a cheeky snigger at the Cats and Flaps mistake in the article but the story is no less interesting.

Britain’s troubled and increasingly expensive plan to equip the navy with new aircraft carriers has been plunged into fresh turmoil as ministers consider reversing their earlier decision to change the type of plane that should fly from them, it has emerged Now, in an extraordinary volte-face, the Ministry of Defence says the “cats and flaps” planes may well be cheaper but it would be too expensive to redesign a carrier – more than £1bn – to accommodate them. The ministry is thus faced with the prospect of renegotiating a deal with the US, reverting to its original plan – namely buying the short take-off and vertical landing version of the aircraft, even though it is acknowledged to be less effective and more expensive

It’s probably a load of nonsense but if true, despite the comedic element of the CVF/JCA omnishambles, it would represent a thoroughly sound decision. In time-honoured tradition, it could be a Pre PR12 spot of damage limitation and/or shaping, a mischievous leak by someone with an agenda, a discarded option or it could be the end result of the post SDSR decision to switch. A decision that was always done based on incomplete information, recognised by the fact that the MoD then embarked on a study to determine how much it would cost. Given that we aren’t best buddies with the USMC aviation community for leaving them in the lurch I wonder how we would re-generate those STOVL deck operations? Of course, the original decision to run Harrier from CVS and CVF, transitioning to JCA, made perfect sense. I wonder in retrospect, the money we have spunked up the wall on studies, contract changes and general pissing about could have kept that original, sensible, plan. File under, you couldn’t make it up!       More later but thanks for the spot James

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