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Canada, Australia, U.K. Sign Joint Strike Fighter Agreements

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 12, 2006 – With the first flight of the Joint Strike Fighter set for this week, Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia have “re-enlisted” for the program.

Canada signed on for the project’s production, sustainment and follow-on development phase during a Pentagon ceremony here yesterday. Australia signed on today as part of the U.S.-Australia ministerial meetings at the State Department, and the United Kingdom signed at a Pentagon ceremony today.

The Joint Strike Fighter is the Defense Department’s program for a “multi-role” stealth air-to-ground strike aircraft. The Navy, Air Force, Marines and allies are developing the system together.

Canadian Deputy Defense Minister Ward Elcock and U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England signed a memorandum of understanding that calls on Canada to pledge $150 million toward production of the Joint Strike Fighter. Canada already has contributed $150 million to the system-development and demonstration portion of the program.

“This is a very special event, because it is a very special partnership,” England said during the ceremony. “The United States and Canada share the strongest possible bonds of friendship, family and fundamental values, as well as a common border.”

“The Joint Strike Fighter program represents a revolutionary approach to both aircraft development and international armaments cooperation,” Elcock said. “It brings together expertise from many different countries and is, as a result, the single largest fighter aircraft program in the world.”

The United Kingdom has been involved with the Joint Strike Fighter program since its inception 10 years ago and is in to the program to the tune of $2 billion. United Kingdom Minister for Defense Procurement Lord Peter Drayson signed a memorandum of understanding early today in the Pentagon.

The deputy defense secretary thanked his British counterpart and praised the way American and British forces work together. “We've had this relationship for a long, long time,” England said. “Our forces are engaged today. As we sign this, there's people out there defending freedom together. They do it every day, shoulder to shoulder, and it's the same way our nations are shoulder to shoulder. I'm just delighted that we have brought this to a conclusion today. We look forward to a long relationship with the Joint Strike Fighter program.”

The British plan for a total buy of up to 150 short-take-off-and-vertical-landing versions of the aircraft for use on two future aircraft carriers.

Canada also is making a substantial investment in the Joint Strike Fighter program. The Canadians plan to buy 80 F-35 conventional-take-off-and-landing aircraft to replace its CF-18 aircraft. The program, led by Lockheed-Martin, will build three variants of the fighter: a conventional model, a carrier model, and a vertical-take-off-and-landing model. The United States has dubbed the aircraft the F-35 Lightning 2. The Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps will use the three aircraft variants. The F-35 will replace the Air Force’s F-16 Falcon, the Navy’s and Marine Corps’ F/A-18 Hornet, and the Marines’ AV-8B Harrier.

Elcock stressed that the program demonstrates how well the United States and Canada can work together. “The program will allow the United States and Canada to continue to benefit from each others’ wealth of technology and expertise,” he said.

Canada expects to retire its CF-18 fleet sometime after 2017, Elcock said. “Canada needs to explore what it needs from the next generation of fighter aircraft,” he said. “Our continued involvement in this project will help us determine our future fighter requirements for the Canadian Forces. Certainly, one capability we know we want to have is interoperability with the United States and our allies.”

Australian Defense Minister Brendan Nelson signed the memorandum during a ceremony at the U.S. State Department today. “It is an extremely important day for Australia and our air-defense capability,” Nelson said. “The Joint Strike Fighter is most certainly the correct aircraft for Australia in terms of air-to-air combat and its strike capabilities.

“It will see Australia through the next 30 to 40 years. It is a state-of-the-art aircraft, and we look forward very much to the imminent first flight.”

Other international partners participating in the program are: the Netherlands, Italy, Turkey, Denmark and Norway. Other nations, including Singapore and Israel, have expressed interest in the program.

Officials say plans call for building more than 2,400 F-35 aircraft by 2027.

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