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Any fighter you like, sir - choose an F-35 off the rack

But to be honest, to an outsider it looks as though this sector could really stand to shrink quite a lot. The militaries of the West, it appears, continue to plough far too much of their straitened funds into exotic combat jets designed for unlikely wars, and not nearly enough into bread-and-butter infantry, surveillance platforms, helicopters, transport planes and so on***. The British forces' present state of financial paralysis, for instance, is caused by the expense of the Eurofighter more than by any other single factor.

Perhaps the boutique world of beautiful bespoke fighter technology should indeed become a dull one-size-fits-all sausage machine: any fighter you like, sir, as long as it's an F-35. Choose your variant off the rack. If that's what it takes to get our actual real fighting people properly paid, housed, equipped and up to appropriate numbers, it could well be a price worth paying.

One thing's for sure, anyway. If anyone really wants to trash the F-35, they'll have to wheel out someone more credible than Dr Carlo "Semtex Pulse Bomb" Kopp. ®

Bootnotes

*A lesson the British "learned" from the Falklands, for instance, was that we should have a standing parachute brigade. As the Falklands lay well beyond the operational range of parachute transports from any available base this was a very curious conclusion to draw. It probably resulted mainly from the fact that the Parachute Regiment was the only Army (as opposed to Marine) unit to emerge from the campaign with much credit, no matter that they had travelled to the South Atlantic by ship. The UK has since admitted that it will in future conduct only "battalion level" parachute operations, if any. (The last real one was during the Suez conflict.)

**Who remembers the vaunted Mig-25 Foxbat, at one time the terror of the West? It was said to be able to fly at substantially better than Mach 3, handily beating almost any free-world jet. This actually was true in a sense - but a Foxbat has to have its engines scrapped after any such burst of speed. The Mig-25 didn't even come close to living up to the reputation that Western fearmongers had given it.

Another example of the oh-the-terrible-Russians mindset was the novel (and later, Clint Eastwood movie) Firefox, featuring the eponymous Russkie uberfighter - so potent that the technically outmatched West is forced to steal and copy it.

***There will also be those offering the traditional viewpoint that too much cash is ploughed into the military in general, and what about schools or hospitals etc. This is a rather old-fashioned notion, with the UK defence budget in modern times looking paltry compared to health, social protection etc.

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