01 Mar F-35 Fighter Production- Is it required anymore?
The F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program—the fifth-generation, multi-role stealth fighter—was considered for cancellation, seven years ago. Now its inventors are focused on innovations for the next generation and visualizing up future technology that might be attached to it in the coming years.
In 2011, then-U.S. Defense Secretary Bob Gates established the bloated, over-budget and behind-schedule plan on suspension with two years to shape up before the U.S. government would chop its losses, and it could have swayed either way, as per the program manager for the F-35’s drag chute system, Arthur Sheridan.
The F-35 Lightning II, also known as the Joint Strike Fighter, has many detractors and many followers. To cut through the dispute currently being waged on the aircraft it is essential to point out four facts about the circumstances the Department of Defense finds itself in: The F-35 is behind schedule and over-budget; it isn’t addressing the abilities the military needs; the world is hugely diverse from the one in which the F-35 was envisioned; and fourth and most importantly, the DoD has revoked, or terminated early, massive weapons programs in the past for related reasons.
Centering on the final fact is most critical for this discussion. The F-22, the Army’s Comanche helicopter, and the Navy’s Seawolf submarine are all case comparisons of programs that the military invested in but eventually canceled notwithstanding massive industry opposition and sometimes exceptional technological results.
Congress has authorized over $83 billion in funding for the F-35 with the lifetime cost of the airframe being assessed at $1.62 trillion. The F-35 Joint Program Office, the Pentagon authority that supervises the entire F-35 program, is under much stress to declare the jet ready for full-rate creation in October 2019. Claiming the aircraft ready is a good idea because it means orders will promptly ramp up and prices will decline. Prefacing this, however, is the Initial Operation Test & Evaluation round of tests that will decide if the F-35 is ready for prime time. A total of 23 fighters will endure a battery of tests in early 2019, and if they slip it could drive many issues into doubt—including full rate stock and the Air Force and Marines’ claims that many of their F-35s are combat-ready.
When the program began in 1996, the JSF was conceptualized to replace the F-16 Falcon, F-15E Eagle, A-10 Warthog, F/A-18 Hornet, and AV-8B Harrier across their roles and missions. The Joint Strike Fighter program requested for a conventional design with three variants to share 80 percent of their parts. There would be the traditional F-35A, the Air Force’s plane. There would be a short takeoff and landing (STOVL) F-35B for the Marines. The Navy would receive the carrier landing F-35C. At its origin, the F-35 was predicted to be four times more powerful than older, legacy fighters in air-to-air combat, eight times more efficient in air-to-ground combat, and three times reliable at reconnaissance and suppression of enemy air defenses.
The direct contrast that can be drawn to the F-35 is the F-22. The early ending of this program was imposed on the Air Force by the DoD in 2009 when then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said, “We must break the old habit of adding layer upon layer of cost, complexity, and delay to systems that are so expensive and so elaborate that only a small number can be built…” The disparity between Air Force leadership and Gates was so adamant that some say it flamed the trail that ultimately led to the firing of both the Air Force chief of staff and secretary.
Critics—and government inspectors—have accused the F-35 program with a comprehensive list of problems. There are also, positive aspects of the F-35 program. Covering everything would require a book, but we have included the most commonly discussed ones.
This is as delicate as it sounds, both the sides are worth consideration. A majority can lead to quick and efficient decision making. What do you think? Should the government cancel production of the F-35 fighter?