239. Telegram From the Embassy in the United Kingdom to the Department of Defense1

967. Subject: UK Military Aircraft Procurement. For OSD/ISA/ILN—Kuss.

Following is advanced text of letter from Healey to McNamara being signaled by MOD to UK Emb Wash for immediate delivery to Sec McNamara. Text made available by Cooper (Asst. UnderSec-MOD) and fact that advanced text made available to U.S. depts via US Emb London should be protected.

Begin Text

Thank you for your letter about the simple option for buying the F111 which I received on 11th February.2 I am very grateful to you for it and for all the help you and your staff gave us in the discussions about buying the C130E and the F4.

I should now like to take up your offer to have further discussions about the F111 and I and my colleagues have still to decide whether to buy this aircraft or to go ahead with the TSR2.
You will, of course, realise that this decision is going to be one of the utmost difficulty for us and I do not need to tell you of the very strong arguments for going ahead with the TSR2 which is doing well in its development flying.
The really critical factor so far as the F111 is concerned is the need to have the best and fullest information about it and to know exactly how firm is this information. It would not serve collaboration well if we were to abandon the TSR2 only to find that the F111 fell short of expectations.
In particular we need to have:—
The firmest possible information on all cost factors for the F111 in its presently planned configuration including, of course, the selling price to us. We should like all this information broken down to the maximum extent practicable;
Details of the progress of the F111 development programme to date; your present technical evaluation of it against the planned programme; your present in-service dates and the risk attaching to them;
The latest and best possible information on your plans for up-dating the F111 avionics not only as regards what the technical plans for it are and the date of introduction, but also on costs and the improvement in capability it is likely to give and at which you are aiming;
The extent of your commitment in policy and funding to F111 MK.2 programme and at what stage you expect to decide whether to commit yourselves irrevocably to it.
To discuss these and other points I would like to send over to you a four man team from the Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of Aviation, under Air Marshal Sir Christopher Hartley, which would be ready to start business in Washington on 8th March.3 Apart from talks in Washington I very much hope they could pay a brief visit to the manufacturer and see the F111. I do not anticipate they would need to stay in the United States more than four days. Before they came it would also be very helpful if another small team could come over for a few days starting on 2nd March to have detailed technical discussions about present thinking on the avionics fit and in particular it would be very helpful if these people could talk to your officers in systems command who, I understand, are now working on it.
You will realize that these missions would be essentially factfinding, but it is of the greatest importance to us that we should assemble all the best facts and estimates that you can make available.
I hope you can agree to what I have suggested and that the dates proposed will be convenient.

/S/ Denis Healey

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, UK, Vol. 2. Secret; Priority; Exdis. No time of transmission appears on the telegram, which was received at the Department of State at 3:27 p.m. Repeated to the Department of State, which is the copy printed here.
  2. Not found.
  3. No record of this visit was found.