Re: Hearts & minds propaganda, courtesy of MoD
'The gap would have been easy to cover but that's what you get for bailing out of the Rafale program'
I'm fairly sure the French bailed out of the Typhoon programme to develop the Rafale when it became apparent they weren't going to get to lead it. Certainly the UK never moved from the Rafale programme to the F-35.
'(surely that vertical thing is mostly a gimmick, given how even the F35 program almost gave up on it in favor of the "short landing" option when it became evident that fans can't possibly compete with wings in terms of lift; feel very free to prove me wrong)'
The USMC will always land vertically on their ships, there's videos of it on youtube. The SRVL is uniquely British and was developed when the UK decided to investigate if it was possible to maintain the bring back weight* could be maintained in the challenging conditions of the North Arabian Gulf. Where due to the heat and humidity you'd normally be planning on recovering with minimum fuel and stores to give yourself a fighting chance of not becoming a submarine. The US are less concerned as they're more willing to dump expensive munitions in the water.
*What you can land back on the ship with