For anybody a little nervous regarding the dangerous, myopic, criminal nature of US foreign policy this may be good news. There is a risk that it is merely a negotiating strategy - but the issues are real enough. Read the items below and make your own mind up. First today's Reuters/Scotsman article - short and sweet - followed by an excerpt from a Times item dated 9th Feb - worth reading in full.
The government may consider buying up to 150 French fighter jets worth 5 billion pounds ($8.7 billion) for two new-generation aircraft carriers, at the expense of existing U.S. contracts, The Mail on Sunday said.
The unexpected verbal offer to buy the Rafale Marine jets, built by French defence group Dassault Aviation , came on January 24 when Defence Secretary John Reid met his opposite number, Michele Alliot-Marie, in London, the paper said, citing unidentified defence sources in Paris.
If the government went ahead with the deal, it would mean cancelling existing U.S. contracts to supply aircraft for the carriers, scheduled to go into service with the Royal Navy in 2010, the paper said. Lockheed Martin holds the existing contracts.
A spokesman for the Ministry of Defence said the report was speculative.
The report followed well publicised difficulties between Britain and the U.S. on the Joint Strike Fighter project, which has been dogged by a row over sharing technology. Link
The Times: Blair's clock is ticking on fight for US deal with Rolls-Royce
... When a Memorandum of Understanding is published in December between the nine countries involved in the project, Britain wants a "US-UK eyes-only annexe" which allows it access to the stealth technology in the fighter. Without it, UK commanders say that they would have to request help from US Lockheed Martin specialists after each sortie, undermining any remaining operational independence. Lockheed Martin has balked at such a transfer of technology to the UK, claiming that it would allow competitor firms on the other side of the Atlantic to view its most precious commercial secrets. The UK points out that the JSF is already benefiting from British technical know-how on vertical take-off and landing.
Henry Hyde, the Republican chairman of the House of Representatives International Relations Committee, has made it plain that the US should give the UK nothing. Along with other American security hawks, his distrust of Britain dates back to the 1950s, when Guy Burgess and Kim Philby gave away secrets to the Soviets. British diplomats are counting the days before Hyde retires from politics in November...
...There is already pressure on the Ministry of Defence to engage in more collaborative procurement projects with the European Union instead of the US. Ministers say that the special relationship appears to "count for nothing" when it comes to the powerful military-industrial lobby in Congress. One former British Defence Secretary said: "Their attitude is one of just pure, brutal global capitalism."