Joint Strike Fighter Problems Reaching Critical Mass
Administration claims jet procurement "on track."
12:41 PM, Mar 1, 2010 • By JOHN NOONAN
Bill Sweetman, the veritable godfather of aviation reporting, has an interesting story up on efforts to push the Joint Strike Fighter out the door on time.
That's a bit in the weeds. The layman's run down is this: The fighter is, and has been, plagued by delays, cost overruns, spats with allies, all underscored by the fact that the JSF isn't that great of a jet. The Russian PAK-FA, which took to the skies this month, is already purported to be a superior air-to-air platform -- though it won't be fully operational for a few years. Moscow has no problem exporting their best gear to second and third world nations, and the Russians take particular delight in providing nations hostile to U.S. interests with advanced weaponry. Considering that proclivity to sell to bad guys, we could be facing the PAK-FA in air-to-air combat in under a decade.
So will we be ready? The F-35's long list of failures is opening up some critical planning issues, problems that could end up critically degrading America's abilities to fight and win wars a few miles down the road. The Obama administration is taking a colossal risk in canceling the F-22 program and sticking all their eggs in the Joint Strike Fighter basket. The F-22 was intended to assure America's air supremacy -- the very cornerstone of every major military operation since the early '80s -- for the next two decades. Though we'll be fine for the next few years, shutting down the Raptor's assembly lines could open a sizable capabilities gap within a decade or so. Meanwhile, Lockheed and the Department of Defense, in light of this growing and serious problem, can only offer tepid assurances that the F-35 is "on track."
Sweetman counters: The Donner Party was on track. They were not on schedule.
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