Tags: lockheed | martin | f35 | jsf | joint strike fighter

US Can't Afford Lockheed Martin's F-35

US Can't Afford Lockheed Martin's F-35
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By Friday, 21 February 2020 07:26 AM Current | Bio | Archive

The American military is in the midst of a great project to rearm and prepare for the 21st Century.

As President Donald Trump put it during his State of the Union address, “Over the last two years, we have begun to fully rebuild the United States military, with $700 billion last year and $716 billion this year.”

That is so much money that it may begin to seem as if the Pentagon has unlimited funding. But of course it does not. The military still needs to make the most of the funding it gets. That’s why it’s time to reduce investment in the F-35.

Lockheed Martin’s F-35, often known as the Joint Strike Fighter, has been a money pit since it was first drawn up. Policymakers wanted to save money, by designing a weapon platform that could serve the Navy, the Air Force and the Marines. The JSF would be convertible for use on land, at sea and over long distances.

That isn’t what happened.

As the program moved from the drawing board in the 1990s to the skies (well, when the plane can get off the ground), the JSF kept falling short of expectations while exceeding cost estimates. It was too heavy, it wasn’t stealthy enough, and it suffered from faulty weapon systems.

Just two years ago, when the military was supposed to have hundreds of F-35s in service, Popular Mechanics reported that: “barely half the F-35s were flight-ready because many of the older ones needed to be brought up to spec.” Even when the plane does fly, it isn’t used for important missions. Its first “combat” deployment, in Afghanistan in 2018, was to drop bombs on a pile of Taliban weapons, not to engage the enemy in any meaningful fashion.

Meanwhile, the cost of the JSF soared, more than eliminating any savings the program was supposed to deliver. “In 2014, the GAO found that the F-35 fleet would have operating costs 79 percent higher than the aircraft it was to replace,” that same, comprehensive story in Popular Mechanics reported.

Instead of punishing Lockheed Martin for the massive cost overruns, the Pentagon is rewarding the company by giving it big contracts to maintain the JSF fleet.

“The F-35 Joint Program Office awarded Lockheed Martin a $1.9 billion contract to sustain and support the worldwide fleet of F-35 Lightning II stealth fighters in 2020,” Flight Global reported this year. That follows a $1.4 billion contract in 2018. Clearly, the costs to maintain the JSF are going to fly higher than the jet itself.

There is a better, and more affordable, alternative.

For decades, pilots have loved flying the F-15, a successful fighter aircraft. In recent years, that platform has been used to attack positions in the Middle East and to project American force. Boeing is ready to build an updated F-15X, and the Air Force wants to buy these jets.

“The configuration is defined by the Air Force’s demand to limit costs, especially for nonrecurring engineering,” Aviation Week reported last year. “So the F-15X models are based exclusively on already fielded technology.” That means that, unlike the JSF, we already know it works. And each F-15X would cost much less than an F-35 does, meaning the Pentagon would be getting far more for its money.

The United States has been at war in Afghanistan and Iraq for most of two decades now. The JSF has never had a substantial role in those fights, despite being the most expensive military program in human history.

Policymakers should focus their spending on successful platforms such as the F-15, and back away from the JSF until Lockheed proves its fighter can contribute to our defense at a reasonable cost.

Dan Perkins is an author of both thrillers and children’s books. He appears on over 1,100 radio stations. Mr. Perkins appears regularly on international TV talk shows, he is current events commentator for seven blogs, and a philanthropist with his foundation for American veterans, Songs and Stories for Soldiers, Inc. More information about him, his writings, and other works are available on his website, DanPerkins.guru. To read more of his reportsClick Here Now.

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Policymakers should focus their spending on successful platforms such as the F-15, and back away from the JSF until Lockheed proves its fighter can contribute to our defense at a reasonable cost.
lockheed, martin, f35, jsf, joint strike fighter
Friday, 21 February 2020 07:26 AM
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