Put up or shut up time on the F-35

The Joint Strike Fighter was is the future of American air power. We need this to work. Sadly, Lockheed Martin seems to have lost it’s way.

Kelly Johnson and Ben Rich must be turning over in their graves. The F-117 was built with parts and avionics taken from several existing aircraft. The SR-71 was designed with the slide rule.

What does the taxpayer get for billions spent? Redo...after redo…several re-starts…

Whereas the F-22 has many boosters, the F-35 has many, many skeptics.

The F-22 was canceled because of the chattering class that called it a “cold war era” fighter. Some claimed that existing aircraft were enough, that we’d never have to fight another war against a real air force.

The problem is that the F-35 is having major teething pains. All project do so some extent. However, the DOD wants 3 aircraft out of one: a conventional fighter for the Air Force, a carrier version for the Navy and a VTOL (think harrier) for the Marines.

Lockheed has to admit that having over 50% commonality between version was a pipe dream (the real figure is lower). Other problems about.

Will the pundits kill the F-35? Of course they’ll try. They’ll trot out the same arguments. Many call for building more F-16s/F-15s. The argument that we don’t have to update our aircraft died out when F-15’s started to fall from the sky due to metal fatigue. Our fleet is aging and re-builds will only delay the their retirement (and may even cost as much or more than a new aircraft).

The tired argument of using the F-22’s radar in existing aircraft has been around since the early 90’s. Many a book was filled with “experts” saying that the F-15 and F-16 can keep working until…some date in the future.

They are wrong. Dead wrong.

The PAK-FA and the J-XX from Russia and China mean that we have to step up our game. Either we build aircraft that can kill the enemy or we go back to Korean war when foreign air forces strafed our military. Yes, it’s been that long as Lex reminds us.

Lockheed needs a new Ben Rich. Someone who can light a fire under the program. Why is the software so bad? Why is the aircraft gaining weight? Instead of shilling for Lockheed, the Administration should hold their feet to the fire.

Just flat out canceling the program will not fix the problem.

The left and the deficit hawks won’t let another aircraft fly. At least for a while. While new F-16’s and F-15 may buy us 5-10 years, we need new aircraft.

We need to go big or go home.

4 Responses to “Put up or shut up time on the F-35”

  1. Canceling the F-35 won’t solve the problem, but it would divert engineers towards designing a new 5th generation aircraft…actually 3 of them. Were DoD to parse out each model of F-35 as a new and separate aircraft, each designed based upon requirements set forth by the respective Service, then we might get somewhere close to solving how to defend against foreign 5th generation threats.

    Many who, like me, recommend transferring f-35 technology to 3rd and 4th generation aircraft, do so with the idea in mind of enhancing the war fighting capabilities of existing airframes. No, they won’t become stealthy, and, no, they won’t equal PAK-FA, but increased capability does amount to enhanced strike capability and survivability.

    One thing that needs to be etched in stone where contracts with DoD is concerned, is that Congress shall not reduce production numbers once the contract is signed. There need to be penalties inherent in the contract making it so prohibitively expensive to renege, that production numbers stay put; increase numbers? yes, decrease? no.

    Two examples come to mind of Congress’ meddling resulting in skyrocketing program costs: one was the F-14 Tomcat which saw costs nearly double due to Congressional contract fiddling, and the other the B-2 Spirit that saw costs more than double from $737M to $2.1B per copy.

  2. Putting 5th gen tech into a 4th or 3rd gen fighter? It’s like a monkey making love to a football, funny but nothing will come out of it.

    The old airframes can only take so much, re-building them takes more money than a new aircraft. Better to start from a clean slate.

    A low RCS is what is needed. Simply put, stealth reduced the distance you can be seen from. Most radar can tell what kind of aircraft they are seeing and even what ordinance they carry. Any 4th gen or lower aircraft is just a target. Standoff munitions are worthless if the attacking aircraft is seen. The S-300 was billed as being able to shoot down the HARM missile as well as the aircraft that launched it.

  3. There are portions of the new tech that will retrofit into the older jets with relative ease, such as putting AESA into the F-16. Agreed that low RCS is paramount going forward, but there’s no reason the older jets cannot benefit from new technology. In some cases it is being done.

    S-300 may be everything that it is touted to be, but one has to wonder how long it will take to create a defense against it. ECM still has value in the battle front, and if the eyes of S-300 can’t see the threat it can’t kill it. IMO, S-300 still has to prove itself, and, even then a way will be found to defeat it.

  4. ECM is fine but can be defeated. Older jets need to go to the boneyard. The airframes just don’t have it in them anymore.

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