The UK should refuse to sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) covering its continued involvement in the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter project unless the US government provides the required guarantees on technology transfer arrangements later this month, says a new report from a cross-party committee.


“If the required assurances are not obtained by the end of the year, we recommend that the MoD [Ministry of Defence] switch the majority of its effort and funding on the programme into developing a fallback ‘Plan B’, so that an alternative aircraft is available in case the UK has to withdraw from the programme,” says the House of Commons Defence Committee, which scrutinises the defence ministry's activities and expenditure.

JSF White Cliffs of Dover W445
© BAE Systems

The UK had spent £560 million ($1.07 trillion) on the JSF programme by 31 March 2006 through its involvement in the system development and demonstration phase, according to the UK National Audit Office. Capital investment immediately linked to its signature of the production, sustainment and follow-on development phase MoU is believed to be worth a further £50 million, with this to cover administration costs and tooling. Major expenditure will only occur when the UK commits to purchase the aircraft.


Defence procurement minister Lord Drayson will hold further talks on the UK’s continued participation in the JSF programme during a visit to Washington, DC this week.


Earlier assessments into an alternative to the short take-off and vertical landing F-35B included carrier-capable versions of the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, Dassault Rafale, Eurofighter Typhoon and extended use of BAE Systems’ Harrier GR7/9.