I have received a letter from a Mr Wakeling in the MoD:
Equipment Capability Secretariat – Operations
MINISTRY OF DEFENCE
London SW1A 2MB
C R Handy Our Ref:
30 April 2013
Dear Mr Handy,
Thank you for your email of 2 April entitled ‘Bring Back The Harrier’. I work for the Ministry of Defence and have been asked to reply.
The decision to withdraw the Harrier fleet from service was not one that the Government took lightly. Although we recognised that the Harrier is a flexible and capable aircraft that has served the nation well, we determined that we should sustain the Tornado fleet which is currently supporting operations in Afghanistan. We accepted that this decision will create a gap in carrier strike capability until the end of the decade, and therefore undertook to maintain HMS Illustrious as the carrier for helicopters to support HMS Ocean until then.
In 2001 the department selected the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) to meet the Joint Combat Aircraft (JCA) requirement and Joint Strike capability. Prior to this decision being taken, a number of potential solutions were considered and ruled out on the basis that they were not as operationally effective, technologically advanced or cost-effective as the JSF. This decision was supported by operational analysis conducted by Defence scientists, prior to each subsequent major investment decision point in the JCA programme which consistently show the JSF to offer the most cost effective solution to meet future threats we are likely to face, in accordance with extant UK policy scenarios.
JSF is a fifth generation, multi-role stealth aircraft containing cutting edge technologies. With its formidable Combat, Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance platform, JSF offers a step change in capability over existing UK fast jets, particularly when compared to the Harrier.
We remain very much committed to the F-35 programme and continue to work closely with the US, in particular the US Marine Corps on the F-35B STOVL variant. Indeed, the design of the STOVL variant of JSF has been greatly influenced over time by UK performance requirements.
The STOVL variant currently meets the JSF programme criteria for weapon and fuel payload whilst conducting vertical manoeuvres. Furthermore, recent ship-borne trials of the STOVL variant embarked in USS Wasp, which included 72 ship-borne deck landings, were a success, supported by a significant improvement in the F-35B’s test performance overall. Nonetheless, the UK will remain very closely engaged in influencing key performance criteria in order to ensure the UK retains operational flexibility around the globe.
You may be interested to know that whilst JSF is an international programme, 15% of the workshare involved in the programme has been awarded to UK companies on a ‘best athlete’ basis, with over 130 British companies contributing to the JSF supply chain and supporting around 25,000 British jobs over the next 25 years. We continue to champion the UK industry role in this programme in order to defend the significant benefit that the UK will derive from it. The UK remains the only Tier 1 partner to the US in this programme, and we have made a significant investment in its development, indeed our recent decision to change to the Short Take-Off Vertical Landing variant will increase the orders for Rolls Royce lift system engines.
I hope the above helps to explain the rationale behind some of our recent decisions and allay your concerns.