The delay in the purchase of the F-35B by Spain to replace its Harrier IIs is finding less and less silence in the Armed Forces.
The absurd political veto of the Socialist Party to the F-35B
For some time, the topic of the possible purchase of the F-35B by Spain has been something of a taboo in the Armed Forces. A taboo that is perhaps explained because in March 2021, the Socialist Party (PSOE), in government since 2018, closed the door to the F-35B. In a statement to a German radio station, Zaida Cantera, defense spokesperson for the PSOE, stated: "The F-35 Bravo is a purely American aircraft. Such a purchase is of no use for Europe" .
These statements collided with reality: at that time, seven European countries had already purchased the F-35. Now there are twelve. A year after those statements, Zaida Cantera stated about the F-35 that "if it exists, we must bet on European technology" , and that "if it does not exist and this is determined, buy from foreign companies, but demanding that they revert to Spain". A demand that is not sustained since Spain has not put a single euro into the F-35 program, unlike countries like Italy or Norway.
The Spanish Navy has been showing interest in the F-35 for years
Let us remember that in 2020 the Spanish Navy has already indicated that it will need the F-35 in 5 or 6 years. Likewise, in August 2021, commanders of the Spanish Navy met in the US with the military chief of the F-35 program, a clear gesture that showed the interest of the Spanish naval force for that fighter. But political criteria prevailed over military criteria. In the end, the delay in making that decision could already cause the Navy to be left without combat aircraft, because even if the contract for the purchase of the F-35B is signed now, very possibly the first fighters of that type would not arrive before the withdrawal of the Harrier II from service, due to the end of its operational life.
Two weeks ago we saw here the statements of the Commander of the Navy Aircraft Fleet (FLOAN), Captain José Emilio Regodón, pointing out that "soon we will be left as the last and only users of the Harrier. And it is not possible to ignore that, if the Ministry of Defense decides on this purchase, there will be waiting times depending on demand and production capacity of assembly lines."
The Commander of the FLOAN pointed out that the withdrawal of the Spanish Harrier II is scheduled around the year 2030, and as we saw here in September, the waiting lists to receive the F-35 are already arriving by 2035, which is when its most recent buyer, the Czech Republic, expects to receive its first aircraft. Thus, under these conditions, the Spanish Navy could be left without combat aircraft for five years, losing a very valuable close support capacity for its operations far from our coasts.
The Spanish Air Force magazine also points out the obvious
Recently, another voice has emerged from the Armed Forces pointing out the obvious. In this case it was not the Navy, but the Air Force, through its official publication, the Revista de Aeronáutica y Astronáuticathe (Magazine of Aeronautics and Astronautics), in its number 527, published on October 31. On page 873, in an article dedicated to the latest edition of The Rotal International Air Tattoo (RIAT), the great air festival held annually in the United Kingdom, the magazine notes:
"The passes of a Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning from Squadron 617 also stood out, the famous Dambusters alongside an EAV-8B Harrier II+ from the Spanish Navy, demonstrating that very different aircraft can fly together. It was like a nod to which should be a natural generational replacement for our veteran Harriers, with their vertical takeoff and landing capability, only available in the future with the F-35B."
As you will remember, Defense and Aviation echoed that demonstration on July 16, showing here two videos and a series of photos of it.
Main photo: BAE Systems Air.
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