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France 'regrets' Britain's warplane choice for carriers

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F-35B Lightning II stealth fighter. A Lockheed Martin Photo.

PARIS (AFP): France has said it regretted Britain's decision to reverse its choice of fighter jets for future aircraft carriers, with the result that French warplanes will no longer be able to use the ships.

"This choice threatens to restrict our naval aviation cooperation, which we regret," foreign ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said, referring to Britain's opting for a jump-jet model of the US-built F-35 instead of the conventional takeoff and landing version to save money on equipment.

"We would like to believe that this decision, which the British government says is based on budgetary reasons, does not jeopardise our cooperation" in this field, he told a regular press conference at the foreign ministry.

Britain confirmed Thursday it had changed its mind over which model of the F-35 to purchase for its planned new carriers because of the extra cost of fitting launching catapults and arrester gear to the ships.

Such equipment is required for France's Rafale warplanes, which were to have shared use of the two carriers under a 2010 defence deal between the two countries.

It is not needed for the F-35B fighter that Britain has now decided to purchase, unlike the more conventional F-35C.

The change risks being politically damaging to Britain's coalition government and is an awkward start to Britain's relationship with French president-elect Francois Hollande.

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