CyberTech Rambler

March 27, 2006

(Plastic) Sable-rattling

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 11:54 am

It is being reported by PC Pro that UK threaten to cancel order for Join Strike Fighters (JSF, sometimes known as F35) unless it gets the full source code to the planes. I can understand why UK, or any other advanced countries for that matter, wants the source code for the JSF if they buy them, but I am wondering whether is  this a "reaction" to Bush canceling a new Rolls-Royles contract for the fighter? (BBC's coverage on the cancellation)

While I understands that program code are increasingly important in weapons and their delivery platforms, most of the world's Defence Forces had been using foreign-made weapons/platforms without access to the source code/program.

Are there cases where a foreign supplier can "switch-off" one's weapon? There is a long but unsubstanciated claim that the French can switch off Exocets. Perhaps a better (substantiated) example is that the UK's 'independent' Nuclear Deterrence, during its early deployment, actually cannot launch without US permission as it relies on US's satellite navigation system (not the GPS) back in the early 1980s. (Note: I cannot find any link to the latter on the internet, but it was well known that the Ministry of Defence was trying to gags journalists who caught wind of this 'adnormaly')

The US government might have problems supplying the 'full' source code. First of all, it is difficult to get all subcontractors to yield the source code. Some contractors might not even be Americans. Secondly, it is a legitimate concern that the UK companies can gain access to competators' secrets, thus giving them an "unfair" advantage. 

I think is more a political gesturing that it is not happy with the cancellation of Rolls Royle's Contract. UK will still buy JSFs because they have more to lose than to gain. U.S. Department of Defence is UK's defence companies' biggest customer, its purchase dwarf that of Ministry of Defence UK. Even when your biggest customer play nasty, one still have to keep it sweet. That's business.


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