The Pentagon, after years and years of deliberation and heavy pressure from Britain, has finally decided it will not share the all-important computer source code for the Joint Strike Fighter.
Sharing source code would, in the words of one close observer of the program, "turn the British JSF into a Trojan Horse." The message this source would send the British: "Yes we love you… but who are those third party nationals from the EU working for you? And how do we know we can trust them?"
British officials had threatened to pull out of the program if the US did not share the source code, but they are unlikely to go that far given how much political and financial capital they have committed to the project. There is also the fact, as one congressional source noted, that the British want what is commonly called the ITAR treaty approved by the Senate.
In August 2006, the US and UK concluded a technology transfer agreement for the F-35. One year later, the Bush administration sent a draft ITAR treaty in June to the Senate for ratification.
Now we hear that the Senate is moving with all deliberate speed to hold a final hearing on the ITAR treaty sometime before Christmas.
That will put the British in a very awkward position vis-à-vis the treaty, which would provide them benefits far beyond the JSF program. "The special relationship works both ways. If they are granted the ITAR treaties and then snub the JSF over the source code, it would be perceived as Britain putting the special relationship in jeopardy," the congressional source said.
Reuters' Jim Wolf broke the story about the source code. He interviewed Jon Schreiber, who handles international affairs for the JSF program.
"Nobody's happy with it completely. but everybody's satisfied and understands," Wolf quoted Schreiber. The ban on sharing the source code applies to all allies, including Australia and Israel.