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Obama weighs into Raptor stealth superfighter fracas

Royal Navy will be cheering for the president

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OK, we get that. But what's all this got to do with the Royal Navy?

Keeping the F-22 in production has implications beyond America, too. Japan would probably buy the superfighter if allowed to. Australia hasn't officially said it wants to, but there's vocal agitation in some quarters down under for a Raptor buy.

Export of the Raptor seems fairly unlikely - planes sold overseas would have to be stripped of much of their top-secret tech, which would be an expensive process - but it would at least be possible if production continues. Any such sales would almost certainly be at the expense of the F-35, which was intended from the outset to be sold around the world. Thus continued Raptor production is even worse news for the F-35 than it seems at first sight.

Britain also plans to buy the jumpjet version of the F-35, to fly from the Royal Navy's new carriers. Some tolerably affordable new jumpjets are more or less critical to the UK carrier programme's survival, which is necessary if the Royal Navy is to remain a serious global player. Unsurprisingly the RAF is trying to kill off the present force of Harrier jumpjets at the moment, imperilling the UK's F-35 purchase and so menacing the survival of the carrier programme.

The RAF's latest attempt to wipe out the Fleet Air Arm is significantly more likely to succeed, then, if Raptor production continues in the States. Similarly, the UK end of BAE Systems will see a brighter future for its Eurofighter in a world where the F-35 is delayed and driven up in price. BAE has some involvement in the F-35 too, as it happens, but the Eurofighter is far more profitable and important to the company.

A lot of people here in Blighty will be watching President Obama's campaign against the Raptor with interest. ®

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