3:29 PM, Jul 7, 2015 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
At a total cost of more than a trillion dollars, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is the most expensive weapons program in history. The U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps — not to mention the air forces and navies of more than a dozen U.S. allies — are counting on the Lockheed Martin plane to replace aircraft currently in service and take over a number of missions to include close air support and air superiority. The plane is supposed to be able to do it all. But last week, as David Axe reported in War Is Boring, a leaked report from a test pilot who recently flew an F-35 against an F-16 – a plane that first saw service in the 70s – in a series of mock aerial engagements called the JSF an inferior dogfighter.
According to the pilot’s report, among several other shortcomings, the F-35:
… can’t turn or climb fast enough to hit an enemy plane during a dogfight or to dodge the enemy’s own gunfire ...
So, Axe concludes:
within a few decades, American and allied aviators will fly into battle in an inferior fighter — one that could get them killed … and cost the United States control of the air.
The plane’s defenders were quick with a rebuttal, as Christian Davenport reported in the Washington Post:
… after years of media beating up the most expensive weapons program in the history of the U.S. military, the Pentagon’s joint program office and Lockheed Martin, the prime contractor, have well-oiled media response teams that are quick to rush to the plane’s defense. And they wasted no time as the War is Boring report gained traction in military circles.
Pentagon officials pointed out, in an e-mail defense of the plane, that:
… the particular plane the test pilot flew did not have its special stealth coating, a Harry Potter-like “invisible cloak” that renders it invisible to radar. It was also lacking the sensors that allow “the F-35 to see its enemy long before it knows the F-35 is in the area,”
F-35 defenders also pointed to the fact that:
Last month, the Marine Corps tested its version of the fighter on an amphibious assault ship and said that it performed flawlessly [and] The Marines are now on the verge of declaring it combat ready, a huge milestone that could come later this month.
And, also, that:
Maneuverability was never going to be the F-35’s main attribute, anyway. It was designed only to be “comparable to current tactical fighters in terms of maneuverability,” Air Force Maj. Gen. Jeffrey L. Harrigian said in the Pentagon’s statement. Its main advantage is its stealth, he said, the ability “to operate in threat environments where the F-16 could not survive.”
But, as Joseph Trevithick of War Is Boring, writes in a rebuttal, the F-35 was designed to win dogfights and this was a selling point with:
John Kent, a senior communications specialist with the Lockheed Martin Joint Strike Fighter Program, [writing] in the Spring 2003 edition of the Air Force’s Air & Space Power Journal [that] the plane would be “a single-pilot, survivable, first-day-of-the-war combat fighter with a precision, all-weather strike capability that uses a wide variety of air-to-surface and air-to-air weapons—and that defends itself in a dogfight.”
Trevithick concludes, pointedly, that:
4:24 PM, Feb 16, 2012 • By RICHARD CLEARY and THOMAS DONNELLY
The $489 billion cut to defense budgets engineered by Barack Obama — as well as the played-for-fool Republican accomplices on Capitol Hill — won't just mean less American military power. These cuts have significant consequences for America's allies, as well.
1:33 PM, Dec 13, 2011 • By THOMAS DONNELLY
The Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper is reporting that the Japanese government is close to settling on the F-35 Lightning as the much-needed replacement for its F-15 fighter. That’s exceptionally good news for a program that’s both key to preserving American military preeminence and at a lot of risk due to prospective deep defense budget cuts. Indeed, Japan’s decision may actually complicate the Pentagon’s challenges in meeting the targets laid out by the Budget Control Act, Obama administration po
1:30 PM, Jul 18, 2011 • By THOMAS DONNELLY
In a letter to new Defense Secretary Leon Panetta last week, Senators Carl Levin and John McCain, the top men on the Senate Armed Services Committee, suggested it was time to look into terminating the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program. Angered by cost increases for the first three lots of low-rate production on the Lightning, the two senators asked Panetta to tell them “what would be our legal obligations and our costs if we were to terminate the F-35 program now.”
Robert Gates was wrong on the F-22, and much more. 12:25 PM, Jan 6, 2011 • By MICHAEL GOLDFARB
As Politico reports, today Secretary of Defense Robert Gates will step forward to offer a list of procurement programs the administration is putting on the chopping block in the coming year. It won’t be the first time that Secretary Gates has moved to cut high profile programs that, in his estimation, the United States military can do without. And, as he makes his case today for doing away with systems like the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle, it’s worth keeping in mind that Gates’s track record leaves open the question of whether these recommendations are based on anything other than his own estimation.
9:00 AM, Dec 9, 2010 • By MICHAEL AUSLIN
After years of ignoring North Korean aggression and provocations, the South Korean government has stated that any future attacks will result in war on the peninsula. In such a crisis as happening now on the Korean peninsula, one assumes the political and military leadership of the United States would deploy its most sophisticated weapons to the Korean peninsula, both as a warning to Pyongyang and as a capable force to defend against any further aggression in support of our South Korean allies. Yet what was missing from the joint military exercises last week between the U.S. and South Korean navies, in which the U.S.S. George Washington aircraft carrier and several American guided missile destroyers and cruisers joined several Korean ships? The answer: America’s most capable attack fighter, the 5th generation stealthy F-22 Raptor.
Aerospace business in the 21st century.12:00 AM, Jul 23, 2010 • By REUBEN F. JOHNSON
Cooperation, international collaboration, work sharing, technology transfer – these are all buzzwords that have been used for years by the aerospace community.
Gates sings another tune.3:38 PM, May 11, 2010 • By MICHAEL GOLDFARB
When Secretary of Defense Robert Gates went to Chicago last summer to make the case for killing the F-22 -- the world's premier air supremacy fighter and the only "fifth generation fighter" currently in production anywhere -- he argued that the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter would be a more cost-effectve alternative. Though the JSF "has had development problems to be sure," Gates said, "It is a versatile aircraft, less than half the total cost of the F-22, and can be produced in quantity with all the advantages produced by economies of scale – some 500 will be bought over the next five years."
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.
If February was a bad news month for the Joint Strike Fighter, with the program boss fired, a 13-month delay in test and a two-year slip in Air Force initial operational capability, look out for March. A Government Accountability Office report is rolling down the tracks, along with a Selected Acquisition Report (SAR) which, as we told you in Defense Technology International a month ago, is almost certainly going to record a critical Nunn-McCurdy breach...
The end of air supremacy?9:32 AM, Feb 17, 2010 • By MICHAEL GOLDFARB
In an open-source assessment of Russia's Sukhoi PAK-FA, aka the Raptor Killer, Air Power Australia concludes, "once the PAK-FA is deployed within a theatre of operations, especially if it is supported robustly by counter-VLO capable ISR systems, the United States will no longer have the capability to rapidly impose air superiority, or possibly even achieve air superiority." Moreover, the Obama administration's decision to kill the F-22 air superiority fighter in favor of the multi-role F-35 Joint Strike Fighter may prove disastrous, as "the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter struggles to survive against the conventional Su-35BM Flanker… Against [a basic-model] PAK-FA, the F-35 falls within the survivability black hole, into which US legacy fighters such as the F-16C/E, F-15C/E and F/A-18A-F have already fallen.”
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