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Who’s Buying the F-35?

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The United Kingdom is considering pulling out of the F-35 project:

BRITAIN is considering pulling out of a £9 billion project with America to produce the new Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) aircraft, intended to fly off the Royal Navy’s forthcoming aircraft carriers.

The move is part of an increasingly desperate attempt to plug a £1.5 billion shortfall in the defence budget. The RAF’s 25 new Airbus A400 transport aircraft could also be at risk.

Studies have now been commissioned to analyse whether Eurofighters could be adapted to fly off the carriers.

Since the Typhoon doesn’t have a VSTOL (vertical/short take off landing) variant, this would seem to require a slight redesign of Queen Elizabeth and Prince of Wales, the Royal Navy’s two proposed super-carriers. Those carriers are large enough to operate fixed-wing aircraft, but weren’t initially expected to have catapults and arrestor gear. If the British dump the F-35, arrestor wires will need to become part of the design.

Of course, since the F-35B (the VSTOL variant) apparently only has three weapons bays (compared to eight for the Typhoon), this may not be such a terrible thing. This also comes on the heels of a major computer simulation that seemed to demonstrate that the F-35 was hopelessly outmatched by the Russian Su-35. Then again, that simulation may have been rigged in favor the Su-35, such that the Air Force could argue for more F-22s. Bill Sweetman has more details on that particular possibility.

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