Defence review is slowing US efforts to persuade foreign governments to commit to engineering partnerships

The Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) programme office is warning the US Department of Defense that prospective international partners want assurances on the future of the project before they will commit to engineering and manufacturing development (EMD).

Italy and the Netherlands have concluded negotiations to become 'level two' EMD participants with 5% stakes, but both still need political approval to sign and commit a total of $2 billion to the programme. EMD is scheduled to start on 1 November, but this is subject to JSF being given the green light by a wide-ranging DoD review of defence programmes.

"Both these countries have said they would like to start national staffing next month, which includes going into parliament to seek money. They've both told us it would help if the Administration can give them some positive indications JSF will definitely go," says Jon Schreiber, JSF International programme director.

The DoD's proposed fiscal year 2002 budget, which is due to be submitted to the US Congress shortly, contains full EMD funding for JSF. But US under-secretary of defense for acquisition, Pete Aldridge is holding off endorsing the $25 billion programme until the review determines what are the DoD's future "strategic objectives."

There is growing concern within industry and the programme office that, without such assurances, prospective foreign partners could delay seeking political and funding approval. "There is the risk of having to wait a year," says Schreiber.

Prospective level three partners include Denmark and Norway, which the programme office hopes to sign up in November, followed by Canada early next year. Turkey has also indicated that it intends to join as a level two player.

"Turkey says it is still very serious about JSF and that its financial situation will not impact on its ability to participate at the highest level priority. It will be coming to Washington DC in four weeks to wrap up discussions", he says.

Source: Flight International