WASHINGTON — UK Secretary of State for Defence Michael Fallon intends to discuss ways the US can help supply maritime surveillance capability until its P-8 aircraft come online – potentially including an acceleration of delivery for the Boeing made aircraft.
Asked whether the United Kingdom would be asking the Pentagon to provide some form of stopgap measure until the P-8s are available in order to deal with an influx of Russian submarine activity in Europe, Fallon said that will be an issue brought up during his Friday meeting with US Defense Secretary Ash Carter.
"Yes there will be discussions, and I hope they will be this afternoon, because we need it," Fallon said, specifically citing the "increase in Russian submarine activity" during the past year.
Fallon's comments came at an event hosted by the Atlantic Council, during which he also pledged that the UK is "stepping up" international operations, both specifically in joining the fight against ISIS in Syria and generally worldwide.
The UK announced the decision to buy nine P-8 aircraft in its Strategic Defense and Security Review, with the first three planes expected to come online in 2020. However, analysts have warned that leaves a gap in British capabilities, one emphasized by Russia's actions.
Sources have previously told Defense News that the two governments are looking at having two US Navy P-8s, with British crews available, operate from the UK in order to bridge the gap between now and when the first P-8s come online.
Earlier in the day, Fallon told a group of reporters that he would also be discussing costs on the F-35 joint strike fighter. Britain has pledged to buy the Lockheed Martin-led fighter, but Fallon admitted to some concerns about the cost of the jet.
"I'm very concerned about the cost, that is one of the things I am going to talking to in terms of implementation of our SDSR with Secretary Carter this afternoon," he said. "We have interest in this too by the way, a large part of the F-35 is built in Britain as you know."
That last point was echoed in his Atlantic comments, as Fallon also called for greater industrial ties between the two nations, echoing statements made by UK acquisition head Philip Dunne this summer.
"As we become a stronger partner of yours, we want to see that relationship become more of a two way street," Fallon said. "We're investing more in you, and we're going to expect more from you as well. I want to see more contracts in the supply chain flowing form the majors on these programs through to British companies."