Britain’s Defense Minister, Liam Fox, has written a letter to Sen. Carl Levin telling him that he worries the U.S. may drop the second engine for the Joint Strike Fighter, a decision that may end up “costing the US and her partners much more in the long term.”
Defense Secretary Robert Gates and President Obama have pledged to veto any bill supporting the F136 engine, a pledge repeated by White House spokesman Robert Gibbs earlier this week.
“A second engine provides competitive discipline during the procurement of the production engines. The alternative, of course, is the creation of a permanent monopoly with all the disadvantages that would flow from that,” Fox wrote Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Levin, who released the letter today. Fox touted what he said will be “very significant cost benefits” which he argued are especially important “in the present period of budgetary constraint.”
Fox repeated the familiar arguments about the dangers of relying on one company to make the F-35’s engines should there be design or technical problem “with all the risks and vulnerabilities that this brings.”
Finally, anticipating what F135 supporters will say, Fox claimed, “This is not an industrial based issue. The UK has content in both engines. Whilst there are obviously industrial interests at stake for the UK, given the involvement of Rolls-Royce as a junior partner to GE, by far the greater proportion of work, even for Roil-Royce, will be carried out in the US.”
Levin, a staunch supporter of the second engine, said he had shared the letter with Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who has not responded yet.
General Electric and Rolls Royce supporters rejoice. Will there be similar letters from other JSF partners?