September 22, 2009
Sir, The first and last consideration in defence procurement (letters, Sept 18) should be obtaining the best quality equipment for our Forces given the resources available, not in providing a substitute for unemployment benefit for the incumbent government’s marginal constituencies. I would far rather have to inform a factory worker that he or she is being made redundant than have to explain to a soldier’s parents that their child has been killed because of inadequate equipment. That it has taken four decades to produce a worthy partly British-built combat jet is an argument against, not for, attempting any such folly in future.
The only actual combat role that it is possible to conceive the Eurofighter undertaking is that of supporting ground troops against insurgents. Such a role can be carried out more effectively — and cheaply — by drones and attack helicopters.
Strategic bombing would be more effective, cheaper, and far less risky to personnel if undertaken by cruise missiles (or stealth aircraft, which the Eurofighter is not) rather than by conventional fast jets.
The US military budget exceeds the next largest by a factor virtually unprecedented in history, and the cost-effectiveness of purchasing American equipment often corresponds. Further, there is no chance of Britain undertaking significant combat operations without at least some American equipment and assistance or — it might as well be conceded — political approbation.