Friday, August 13, 2004

A sense of outrage

Talking of a sense of humour (see previous post), the taxpayer certainly needs one before reading about the latest development in the Eurofighter saga: according to The Daily Telegraph, attempts by the MoD to save £90 million on the £105 billion project by dispensing with the aircraft’s cannon have spectacularly backfired.

Stripping out the weapon altered the aircraft’s aerodynamics so greatly that the only way to restore handling was to have something that not only weighed the same as the gun but was also shaped exactly the same.

"To make matters worse", the Telegraph reports, "each individual part of the makeweight's shape also had to weigh exactly the same as the real thing. In short, the cheapest option was to fit the cannon. So all 232 of the RAF's Eurofighter/Typhoon aircraft will be fitted with the gun at a cost of £90 million - but in order to save what is now a mere £2.5 million they will have no rounds to fire".

Actually, it is not a sense of humour we need, but a sense of outrage. £90 million spent on a gun that doesn’t work: that’s £90,000,000 – more than I will earn in a hundred lifetimes, the cost of building and running a modern district general hospital; more than the cost of a new Royal Yacht, etc., etc. But then what is a mere £90 million between friends, when the whole £105,000,000,000 spent on Heseltine’s folly is a waste of money.

Yet, in the Telegraph, Air Commodore Andrew Lambert - one of the RAF's leading air power strategists and a former commander of a fighter squadron – dismisses the idea of a fighter armed only with missiles as "old thinking".

He is quoted as saying that "when you are dealing with terrorists and other unpredictable situations you want all the flexibility you can get and a gun gives you a lot of utility... You could also use it for strafing targets like pick-up trucks in the desert."

But that is dangerous thinking. With a single aircraft worth £60 million plus, the last thing you can afford to do is risk using it on a target that might only be worth a few hundred pounds, especially when dealing with it puts you in range of ground fire. The risk/benefit ratio if all wrong, and no commander can risk that amount of hardware for such a target.

Yet the latest saga demonstrates quite how fatuous this whole European project really is. What the RAF desperately needs is some cheap and cheerful ground attack aircraft that can take out "pick-up trucks in the desert" – something like the Jaguar, that Hoon is scrapping to pay for er… the Eurofighter.

So, once again (see previous blog), we see in this accursed aeroplane, a paradigm for the whole EU experiment: we pay a fortune for something we don’t want, that we don’t need, and doesn’t work anyway. And even if it did work, we couldn’t afford to use it but, because we are paying so much for it, we can’t afford the things we really need.

Have I just made the case for opposing the constitution?

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