The USA’s ITAR laws covering military technology transfer have been a thorn in the multinational F-35 program’s side from day 1. Those restrictions were a barrier to allied participants’ wish to be full participants in the project, and have also created questions regarding their ability to maintain their aircraft without always having to go hat in hand to the USA. Shared stealth technologies like radar-absorbing paint that helps the aircraft meet its design promises, software source code underpinning the aircraft’s equipment and weapons integration, and agreements covering follow-on development of after-market capabilities were the key issues for the UK – but the UK is not alone in its concerns by any means.
In July 2006, New Zealand’s Labour Party government signed a NZ$ 771 million (then about $475 million) contract with AgustaWestland & EADS’ joint venture NH Industries for 8 NH90 helicopters, to replace the Royal New Zealand Air Force’s fleet of ageing UH-1 Iroquois. This Ministry of Defence page explains the project, while The government release cited the specific capability improvements the NH90s bring in a number of dimensions. It also noted their commonality with Australia’s recently-expanded NH90 force.
More than 33% of the contract’s cost includes logistics and support, which includes spare parts, project costs, training, software and equipment, as well as currency hedging. NH Industries’ release corrects the total to 9 helicopters, in order to ensure 8 operational machines.
In our 2006 Valentine’s Day article “Love on the Rocks: CASA’s $600M Venezuelan Plane Sale In Heavy Turbulence,” DID discussed the blockage of a EUR 500 million sale from Spain to Venezuela under the USA’s ITAR regulations on military technology transfer. Despite the protests of the Spanish government, which claimed that the planes were not potential offensive weapons, the US held firm in its insistence that no ITAR-qualifying technologies could be part of the order for 10 EADS-CASA C-295 light transports, and 2 CN-235MPA Persuader advanced maritime patrol aircraft.
DID’s article explained why this was a likely deal-breaker, in spite of vocal support for the sale from the Spanish government. Things worked out pretty much as predicted…