The signs are pointing to the F-35 program being kept going just to fleece the foreign buyers, by getting them to commit to a block buy and then the US will abandon the program. Consider these words from this article from Breaking Defense:
Will the Air Force buy its full complement? Harrison was skeptical.
“I don’t think it’s plausible that we’ll actually buy that full amount in the long run, but they don’t need to change their plans right now, they don’t need to scare the foreign partners by signaling that right now, it wouldn’t make sense to do it now,” he says. “You don’t have to make that decision on the total quantity, you don’t even have to make the decision on the full-rate production, until four or five years from now. So you can wait four or five years, more of the foreign partners will get deeply invested in the program, and then they can scare them.”
In this article General Bogdan, who is in charge of the F-35 program, says that the US won’t participate in a block buy until the Lot 13 production run — which is scheduled to start in 2019, but foreign buyers are welcome to be part of a block buy in Lot 12. The program is currently in Lot 9 production, though pricing for this lot between Lockheed Martin and the Department of Defense has yet to be settled on.
Taken at face value, this means that foreign buyers would be getting their aircraft cheaper than the Department of Defense from the same production run. If the Department of Defense was in the F-35 program forever, why would they let that situation come about unless they were maintaining the option of walking away from the F-35 at any time?
Then consider these words from the US Air Force Air Superiority 2030 Flight Plan:
Failure to adopt agile acquisition approaches is not an option. The traditional approach guarantees adversary cycles will outpace U.S. development, resulting in “late-to-need” delivery of critical warfighting capabilities and technologically superior adversary forces …
Additionally, the Air Force must reject thinking focused on “next generation” platforms. Such focus often creates a desire to push technology limits within the confines of a formal program. Such efforts should be accomplished within the S&T portfolio and proven through effective prototyping, harvesting when mature to a sufficient level for transition. Pushing those limits in a formal program increases risk to unacceptable levels, resulting in cost growth and schedule slips. This put such programs at risk of cancellation due to their nearly inevitable underperformance, and results in delivery of capabilities “late to need” by years or even decades.
That describes the US Air Force’s experience with the F-35. The words “risk of cancellation” are predictive. But when will it be cancelled?
Damage is accumulating every day the F-35 program continues. The defense establishment has woken up to the shortcomings of the F-35, and expressed an interest in restarting F-22 production. The National Defense Authorization Act for 2017 directs the Department of Defense to report on F-22 restart costs in early 2017. What might kill the F-35 sooner is hard data, which Lockheed Martin has been careful to avoid providing.
Lockheed Martin were given charge of evaluating their own product in a Verification Simulator, which is supposed to provide multiple ultra-realistic, thoroughly test-validated pilot cockpit simulators operating together to enable operational testing of multi-ship tactical scenarios with large numbers of advanced threats. To quote a POGO report on the failings of the F-35:
It’s the only way to test many of the F-35’s capabilities because the test ranges cannot realistically replicate the full spectrum and quantity of targets and threats the F-35 combat formations would confront.
Beginning in 2001 Lockheed Martin engineers were under contract to create this complex simulator facility, but the project had fallen so far behind that DOT&E (Director Operational Test & Evaluation) questioned whether it would be ready in time for operational testing.
Rather than reinvigorating that project, the JPO (F-35 Joint Program Office) moved the entire simulator development to a Navy lab. That lab is now in the throes of trying to take over this monumental design, fabrication, and verification testing task.
According to the memorandum by the Director Operational Test & Evaluation, the Verification Simulator will not be ready for the currently planned IOT&E start date in 2018 — and perhaps not until two or more years later. That is after the planned start of full rate production in 2019. (end of excerpt)
Click here for the full story, on the Wentworth Report website.