Most of the delays and cost overruns to the Eurofighter Typhoon can be traced to former UK defence minister Michael Heseltine's misplaced determination to get Germany "on board" at the start. Had it remained a tri-national project among nations that accepted the need for a new fighter, many of the stops, starts and redesigns could have been avoided.

The Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is in danger of facing the same problems: the USA is adding as many extra partners as it can, almost none of which want the short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) version, which is the only variant of any use to the UK (the main financial partner). The UK's new carriers won't now be big enough to operate a viable sortie rate with catapult-launched aircraft, so the real choice is STOVL or shore-based - and it is beginning to look as if the STOVL JSF will be dropped on a technical pretext to accelerate the Lockheed Martin F-16 replacement.

The USA has the benefit, not just of UK finance for a fighter, which they need 30 times as much as we do, but of a lot of UK technology, which they cannot supply themselves. However, the only thing which justifies UK investment in the project is the STOVL variant. If the UK doesn't get that, it might just as well buy an extra 80 Eurofighter Typhoons and lower the unit cost of its own fighter, instead of donating billions of pounds to subsidise the USA's exports to third countries.

Matthew Spencer Bedford, UK

Source: Flight International