Thunderstruck: How the F-35 Lightning IIs Rollout is Costing the American Taxpayer Billions

This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion
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The people that work in the United States government are some of the best people around the world in their fields, and our military is the best in the world. However, the confluence of congressional aides, “blue-ribbon” panels ,and external/international contractors can create undue influence in the planning phases, opening the door to graft, corruption, and simple incompetence. 

The F-35 Lightning II Project Illustrates the Point

On paper, the project sounds like it is a good idea. The F-35 beat out Boeing’s X-32 on paper and became the “Joint Strike Fighter” of the future. The concept was sound; the F-35 was to be a replacement for the F-16, the F-15E, the A-10, and the F/A-18. The idea was that the plane would have three functional variants (Air Force, Navy, and Marines) that would share 80% of the parts for easy repair. Popular Science stated that the new plane would be “four times more effective than older, legacy fighters in air-to-air combat, eight times more effective in air-to-ground combat, and three times better at reconnaissance and suppression of enemy air defenses.”  

However, meeting all the capabilities of the F-35’s progenitors proved to be difficult, especially the contrast between the Air Force’s need for a “stealth” craft and the Marines need for a vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) system.

The advancement of the program also met with the monster of government incompetence as the Pentagon foisted “concurrence” in the development of the plan, which means that early prototypes were not even tested when newer integrations were being built.

Furthermore, this plane was being funded by allies who were ordering planes before it was even built. These nations include: Australia, Canada, Denmark, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, and the United Kingdom, who funded the program initially. There were also purchases of the JSF by Korea and Japan. Turkey, which is notoriously unreliable, also pitched in funding, which indicates that our most “radical” ally also expects to buy several of the five-generation planes.

A Real Solution That Brings Results

Analysts are sounding the alarm that the cost overruns which have plagued the program are signs of Cold War thinking in the modern world. The Party line in Washington about the need for a deterrent capacity against Russia serves as a distraction from the F-35’s cost overruns and logistical design flaws. Indeed, Congress is now citing it as justification for ordering more F-35s than the Pentagon is requesting

The Pentagon needs to learn from the mistakes of the F-35 program as it begins the design phase for air-superiority weapons for 2040 and beyond (the F-35 is supposed to be the premier JSF until then). We need to look at the differing needs of the current branches, the rising demand for new branches (a cyber-force and Trump’s Space Force) and understand that we need to test our prototypes before starting production. The F-35 is not a bad plane, it is just not the plane of the future we were promised. We cannot allow this type of boondoggle to happen again and need to insist that the Pentagon takes a “precision instrument” approach to modern warfare, not a “we just need a really big, fast hammer” approach.

Dr. Christopher W. Smithmyer

Dr. Christopher W. Smithmyer

Dr. Christopher W. Smithmyer is a writer for NRN and an adjunct professor at both Penn State University and the University of South Florida. He is the author of several books, most recently “A Criminal History of the Democrat Party” which is available on Amazon and via the publisher, Elite Exclusivity. Follow on Twitter at @Acriminalhisto1

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