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Report confirms UK Harrier sale to US


Remember back in the summer when there were rumblings the U.K.  would sell some or all of its old Harriers to the U.S. to help out the Marine Corps?

Well, it's true, Defense News confirmed on Sunday. Correspondents Christopher P. Cavas, Vago Muradian and Andrew Chuter wrote this:

Britain has agreed to sell all of its 74 decommissioned Harrier jump jets, along with engines and spare parts, to the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps - a move expected to help the Marines operate Harriers into the mid-2020s and provide extra planes to replace aging two-seat F-18D Hornet strike fighters.

Rear Adm. Mark Heinrich, chief of the U.S. Navy's Supply Corps, confirmed the two-part deal Nov. 10 during a conference in New York sponsored by Bank of America Merrill Lynch in association with Defense News.

Heinrich negotiated the $50 million purchase of all Harrier spare parts, while Rear Adm. Donald Gaddis, the U.S. Navy's program executive officer for tactical aircraft, is overseeing discussions to buy the Harrier aircraft and their Rolls-Royce engines, Heinrich said.

So -- the roughly $50 million number we heard about back in June from the British media probably reflected just the Harrier spares, and there's a second, higher number to look for in the cost of the actual Harriers and their engines.

It's a great deal and a disturbing one all at the same time. This bargain will help the Marines prolong the lives of their Harrier fleet until 2025, Cavas & Co. write, and take some of the pressure off some of their older F/A-18Ds. And yet just beneath the surface here is the lingering uncertainty about the F-35B -- although the Navy Department says it's committed to the Bs and Cs, is this Harrier purchase a tacit acknowledgement there's a chance of more problems?

Of course not, service officials would say -- this is just a convenient deal that happened to come our way ... we'd be fools not to take it. Cavas, Muradian and Chuter make it sound as though the Marines and the Ministry of Defence could lock everything down in about two weeks, and it might not be much longer after that before we see Harriers arriving in the U.S.


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