Thank you for your letter of 30th April, I have noted the contents.
Your letter almost dismisses the Harrier and concentrates on the F35, as if it can fully justify to have been the best decision. You haven’t answered any of the questions posed about the F35 and its lack of performance, vulnerability or long lead time. To give a flavour of the criticisms levelled at the F35, here are a few that have been reported, there may doubtless be others:
‘cannot land on the ships in “humid and low pressure weather conditions”, a report warns today.’
The ‘ 2010 decision, saying it was “based on immature data and a number of flawed assumptions”.
‘but tests on the jet “are slipping” and the early production versions of the aircraft are “likely to have less capability than planned”’
‘landing difficulties. “The STOVL is unable to land vertically on to a carrier in hot, humid and low pressure weather conditions without having to jettison heavy loads.’
‘“Flawed ministerial decisions have wasted millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money at a time of mass service sackings and cuts to pensions and allowances.”’
‘serious deficiency in rearward vision from the cockpit and to rectify it would involve major structural changes’
‘confirms that it is rather underpowered, suggesting that in combat missions, it will spend a good deal of time on afterburner.’ This is not very good for fuel consumption is it?
being restricted to 5 g turns, cracks in the wings and flanges, a tendency to catch on fire, a fuel tank venting system that will not allow steep dives below 20,000 ft (6100 m), and using the same batteries that have just grounded the 787 fleet, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program has encountered some teething problems.
‘ the jet’s fuel tank could explode if struck by lightning.’
‘Joint strike fighter decision was flawed, MPs say’
One of the most telling is this statement:
‘US Marine Corps are making contingency plans to press into service the UK Harriers should the plug be pulled on the F35’. You have not commented on this – can you confirm or deny the US Marine plans?
So based on the foregoing and your assumption that all will be well with the F35, is there still a case to bring the Harrier back into service? This is my view:
Despite the fact that the F35 is much more state of the art, has more sophisticated avionics AND provides work for UK companies, so would resurrecting the Harrier, which would provide jobs for the myriad Harrier engineers who were made redundant when it went out of service. There was also I believe scope to improve the Harrier further still.
The F35B will now not be service until 2021/22 AT THE EARLIEST! What on earth are the two new carriers going to transport in the meantime, where are the Naval fixed wing pilots going to come from at that time? This will be the longest period the Navy has not had any fixed wing combat aircraft. If the Harrier had still been in service, HMS Illustrious could have stayed in service as their base, and we would have been able to foreshorten the bombing of Libya just by stationing it offshore at Tripoli. The threat would have been enough. As it is we now have a further period of up to 7/8 years before we have a carrier- borne force again, and we are an island! A statement by the government said that we could borrow The Foch, the French aircraft carrier, yes but only if it’s available. At least they have combat aircraft that fly from it. The folly of the UK having no carrier force could be very dangerous in an unstable world.
I implore the MoD to consider very carefully and quickly for a recall of the Harrier to plug the gap left by their demise. I say quickly because we don’t know how much equipment the US Marine Corps has taken off our Harriers to service their own jets. It is not too late to have a token Harrier force operating from the illustrious or Ocean, with a delay on the scrapping of the Illustrious.