In light of the near completed sale of 14 F35Bs in the very near future, I have decided to change the title on my blog to: Bring Back the Harrier/No to the F35B.
Looking at the Newsnight segment (see below), I feel that after three years of being out of service and now probably in pieces, the cause of trying to get the UK Harriers back to operational service here, is lost. The purchase of the F35B will seal the future for this aircraft, so the Harrier will now never be back in service with the RAF and Royal Navy, despite it still being used very successfully by the Italians, the broke Spanish, the US Marines and the Indian Navy. The latter is of course still using the FRS1 model with Indian modifications, but it is still basically a Harrier 1. The rest use the Harrier II to their full capability. Despite the appreciative noises coming from some areas of the aerospace industry, the F35B is still way behind the drag curve in respect of maturity, cost effectiveness and operational capability. The earliest it could be in service is slated to be 2018, exactly the same year the Harrier was due to go out of service. So despite the reassurance from a plainly ill informed Minister of Defence, the F35 is not all its cracked up to be. If, if, if we had kept the Harriers and the Ark Royal, we may have had no huge gap between one aircraft going out of service, and the new one taking over. It begs the question then: what is the UK’s role in world affairs? Yes I’ve asked this before, but it still needs a definitive answer. We cannot and should not try to ‘compete’ with other countries about the size of our armed forces, the first priority of government is the protection of the homeland, everything else is secondary.
So I admit it, this blog has been defeated by the deafening silence from the MoD about decisions made by them over the last three years. But the F35 is not necessarily the answer, is it needed for future conflict? Cannot the Typhoon be the British Isles sole defender? The trouble is defence issues are not necessarily election deciders. That is a pity, but voters choose for many other reasons; benefits, immigration, inflation etc. Defence of the realm doesn’t normally come into it, but then all the others do demand a greater strain on the economy. It will be interesting over the next 16 months to see the wriggling the politicians engage in to try to win our votes. Of bigger concern is the unregistered or more precisely the uninterested electorate. As usual the election will be decided by about 50% of the voting public, the rest will just accept what happens, then complain about it afterward. Whoever gets into power though won’t be able to reverse the F35 decision, that is now set in concrete, but the rumoured buy of 46 will never be enough. Time will tell, let’s hope foresight is also brought in with the next intake of MPs. Don’t hold your breath.