Half of Europe is very annoyed at Britain these days. Seems Britain has made an agreement with America not to breathe a word about any of the stealth technology the Americans show them while Britain is helping to develop the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF). The other Europeans badly want to build a modern stealth aircraft. British Aerospace Engineering stands to lose a number of juicy contracts, including the Eurofighter, because of the Foreign Office’s decision. Click here for an article about the agreement.
It’s good to find our British allies so accomodating, but was this a smart thing for us Americans to ask? I can see some justification for not wanting continental Europeans to get their hands on stealth technology. France, in particular, has got itself a reputation for selling state-of-the-art weapons to just about anybody with ready cash. If they get stealth today, tomorrow it may turn up in the hands of the Iraqis, the Chinese, or some other potential U.S. enemy.
On the other hand, is it intended that Lockheed or Boeing will never market the JSF outside Britain and the U.S.? These days, you pretty well have to sell any sophisticated aircraft to several countries to recoup the huge R&D costs. If France, Germany or Sweden buy a shipment of JSFs, will they be able to reverse-engineer the technology if they want to build a stealth aircraft?
Furthermore, what repercussions will this policy have on the NATO alliance? I don’t see Heinrich Voter being all that eager to support things like NATO intervention in Yugoslavia if the Americans are going in with fifth-generation stealth aircraft while Heinrich’s son is flying a fourth-generation Tornado that shows up bright and clear on a SAM radar screen.
I guess this is a bit of a transient issue for a Great Debate, but we generally don’t discuss international policy in IMHO, so I’m throwing it out here: is it worthwhile to slap this gag order about stealth technology on the British aerospace industry?