The F-35 program could cripple U.S. defense for decades to come. “You could argue it [the F-35] was already one of the biggest white elephants in history a long time ago,” stated former U.K. defense chief Nick Harvey in a May interview. Harvey then doubled down, saying there is “not a cat in hell’s chance” the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) would be combat-ready by 2018.
While it is noteworthy that a person of Harvey’s stature would level such harsh criticisms, his statement merely reflects the conclusions of reports by the U.S. Defense Department’s Director of Operational Test & Evaluation (DOT&E), the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the Congressional Research Service, and various independent air-power analysts: The F-35 program is a mess; it is unaffordable and will not be able to fulfill its mission.
Indeed, it could be argued that the biggest threat the U.S. military faces over the next few decades is not the carrier-killing Chinese anti-ship ballistic missile, or the proliferation of inexpensive quiet diesel-electric attack subs, or even Chinese and Russian anti-satellite programs.
The biggest threat comes from the F-35 — a plane that is being projected to suck up 1.5 trillion precious defense dollars. For this trillion-dollar-plus investment we get a plane far slower than a 1970s F-14 Tomcat, a plane with less than half the range of a 40-year-old A-6 Intruder, a plane whose sustained-turn performance is that of a 1960s F-4 Phantom, and a plane that had its head handed to it by an F-16 during a recent dogfight competition.
The problem is not just hundreds of billions of dollars being wasted on the F-35; it is also about not having that money to spend on programs that would give us a far bigger bang for the buck.
The Joint Strike Fighter program formally began in January 1994 as the Joint Advanced Strike Technology program, with the goal of producing a lightweight, low-cost fighter for the Air Force, the Marine Corps, and the Navy.
Twenty years and hundreds of billions of dollars later, we have a program that has yet to deliver one combat-capable squad. In fact, the program has yet to deliver a stable design. F-35s delivered to date could still need air-frame modifications, not to mention having unstable avionics and weapons systems.
Claims that the Marine variant, the F-35B, will achieve initial operating capability (IOC) sometime this year are being questioned by those who cite the most recent DOT&E report as showing that by historical standards the F-35 is not IOC ready. Close-air-support capabilities falsely advertised as being able to replace those of the A-10 are not scheduled to come on line until 2021.
Given the JSF program’s history, it would be criminally naïve not to expect more schedule slips. (end of excerpt)
Click here for the full story, on the National Review website.