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AEROSPACE
U.K to halve fast-jets by 2020

by Staff Writers
London (UPI) Dec 13, 2010
The British air force looks poised to halve its fast-jet fleet by 2020, a commanding officer said.

The move is focuses on the force's fleet of Typhoon F2s and Tornado F3s.

"We are heading for five Typhoon squadrons and one JSF [Joint Strike Fighter] squadron," Air Vice-Marshal Greg Bagwell, who commands the air force's air combat group, was quoted saying by the Defense News Web site. "It will be a six-squadron world; that's what's on the books."

That could mean 107 Typhoons, plus about 40 F-35C JSFs that support a large operational squadron of 20 to 25 crews, Bagwell said.

The consideration comes amid sweeping budget cuts that have hit the defense industry in the last year.

BAE Systems, for example, the country's biggest manufacturer of military equipment said it was planning to shave about 1,400 employees from its staff in a bid to meet government designs calling for aggressive defense budget cuts.

The country also exposed plans to shrink its armed forces and scrap key assets like its flagship aircraft carrier as part of savage public sector cutbacks announced by British Prime Minister David Cameron and his administration.

The prime minister has also indicated that some 17,000 service personnel would go from the British army, air force and navy by 2015. The government though has vowed that there would be no cut backs in field and combat operations, including those in Afghanistan.

Military experts expect that the cutbacks in the air force's Typhoon numbers could be further clipped it Britain and Omar agree to send to the Persian Gulf nation a squadron of aircraft.

"The planes could be diverted from an existing (air force) order; the question is whether they will then later be replaced," Defense News reported, cited comments made by Bagwell.

Britain's defense cuts are estimated at 8 percent, to a budget of about $58 billion in an attempt to slash the country's deficit caused by the global financial slowdown.

Britain's fast-jet squadrons totaled 33 in 1990, slipping to 17 in 2002. The number has since dipped to 12. Of them, seven are Tornados, three Typhoons and two are Harrier squadrons.

One analyst quoted by Defense News said six squadrons was "the low point for the United Kingdom's fast jet fleet." He said that could be recovered in bit as the Ministry of Defense "bolsters its force of Joint Strike Fighters beyond the current level mandated in the new strategic defense and security view."

Bagwell, though, was less optimistic saying he expected "a single squadron in 2020 and that's it."



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