F-35 looking more like white elephant


F-35 looking more like white elephant
Israpundit » Blog Archive » F-35 looking more like white elephant

WASHINGTON (AFP) – The F-35 fighter jet, set to replace a large part of the US warplane fleet, has become the most expensive weapons program ever, drawing increased scrutiny at a time of tight public finances.

Following a series of cost overruns and delays, the program is now expected to cost a whopping 382 billion dollars, for 2,443 aircraft.

The so-called 5th generation fighter was built with features designed to help avoid enemy radar and ensure American supremacy in the skies for decades.

But there is now the potential for competition from China, which this week unveiled its first radar-evading combat aircraft and fueled a sense of a military rivalry between the two powers.

At home, the Lockheed Martin F-35 is getting increased criticism even from some at the Pentagon.

[Related: India will soon fly first fighter jet built at home]

Defense officials say the original cost estimates have now doubled to make each plane’s price tag reach some 92 million dollars.

At the same time, the contract awarded in 2001 had been planned to last 10 years, but has been extended to 2016 because of testing and design issues.

Lockheed Martin, which is working with Northrop Grumman and BAE Systems, is developing three versions of the aircraft, which are being designed for ground attack as well as reconnaissance missions.

The F-35A is designed to replace the F-16 and A-10 of the US Air Force, while the F-35C is designed for deployment on aircraft carriers to supplant to F-18, and the F-35B would have a vertical takeoff capacity and replace Harrier aircraft.

US Defense Secretary Robert Gates has warned the cost overruns cannot continue and expressed particular concern over the short take-off and vertical landing variant.

“The culture of endless money that has taken hold must be replaced by a culture of restraint,” he said recently.

For the short-takeoff version, Gates has ordered “the equivalent of a two-year probation,” adding that “if we cannot fix this variant during this time frame and get it back on track in terms of performance, cost and schedule, then I believe it should be canceled.”

As part of a cost-saving drive, the Pentagon chief has decided to delay the purchase of 124 of the 449 units of this version until 2016.

Another bone of contention is a second engine being developed for the fighter by General Electric and Rolls Royce in case the Pratt & Whitney engine is not up to par. Gates contends this second engine is “unneeded.”

Private analysts say the whole F-35 program is becoming a money pit.

“The incredibly unfortunate phrase ‘too big to fail’ applies to this aircraft more than any other defense program,” said Richard Aboulafia, an aerospace industry analyst with the Teal Group.

[Related: Chinese stealth fighter makes first test flight]

“It’s difficult to think of a civil or military program in the past decade that hasn’t experienced similar delays and cost overruns.”

Still, it may be hard to make many changes to the F-35 program because Britain and seven other countries have been closely involved in its development.

The United States is covering 90 percent of the cost of the development but has participation from Britain, Italy, Turkey, the Netherlands, Canada, Denmark, Norway and Australia.

Other nations, including Israel and Singapore, have signed contracts to buy the plane.

“The US wants a globalized JSF program for a combination of strategic and economic reasons,” said Aboulafia.

“It greatly simplifies logistics, training and doctrine for coalition warfighting. Dominating the military aerospace export business is certainly a strong draw, too. It’s as much an industrial policy as a fighter.”

Discuss, and read the comments


this is connected

The Lavi Fighter

Israeli shortsightedness has left it at the mercy of someone like Barack Hussein Obama. There is no reason why a country with such enormous technological capability shouldn’t be producing its own fighter jets.

F-35 – take it or leave it

Just imagine Israel’s position today had the Lavi fighter jet project not been canceled.

By Moshe Arens, Haaretz

Who would have believed it? Some years ago Israel was developing the world’s most advanced fighter aircraft, the Lavi, while the Western world’s aircraft manufacturers were beating their way to our door, eager to participate in the Lavi project, or trying to sell their competing plane to the Israel Air Force. And now Israel goes hat in hand pleading for a chance to be allowed to acquire the F-35 aircraft, at a price tag of $150 million each. But it’s not only the astronomical price. Israel is told that the F-35 must be taken as is – no changes or modifications to suit Israel’s specific needs, and absolutely no Israeli systems included. Take it or leave it.

Just imagine Israel’s position today had the Lavi project not been canceled. The IAF would be operating the world’s most advanced fighter, upgraded over the years to incorporate operational experience and newer technology. Much of Israel’s industry would have moved a great step ahead, Israel Aerospace Industries would have become a leading developer of fighter aircraft, and most importantly, a number of options would be open to the IAF in choosing its next fighter.

What were the outlandish claims trumpeted by the opponents of the Lavi? The project, they said, was too big for Israel. These narrow-minded skeptics had not believed that we could convince the U.S. Congress to fund most of the project, and certainly were incapable of foreseeing Israel’s economic growth in the years to come. Now they are staring at a $3 billion price tag for 20 F-35s. They said Israel should not be developing military platforms but only accessory systems to be mounted on the platforms. Now Israel will not be allowed to mount Israeli systems on the F-35.

And where would we be today if we had believed that nonsense about not developing platforms? Out of the satellite-launching and unmanned-aerial-vehicle business. Where are they today, the people who at the time foolishly led the crusade against the Lavi? Surprisingly, 23 years later, some are still involved in decision-making on national security. They were against the development of the Lavi, against the development of an Israeli reconnaissance satellite, and against the development of the Arrow ballistic missile interceptor. But unfazed, they continue on.

Do they admit they were mistaken? Admitting past mistakes is a rare human quality, but there are exceptions. Dan Halutz, a fighter pilot ace and former IAF commander and chief of staff, at the time like many senior IAF officers a supporter of the cancellation of the Lavi project, recognizes in his recent book that it was a mistake to cancel the project.

So what’s the use of crying over spilled milk? Are there alternatives to swallowing our pride and shelling out $3 billion for 20 F-35s? (The original plan had been to acquire 75 aircraft, which would have brought the price above $11 billion, but that was too expensive. ) Before we make that commitment, a little intellectual effort should be invested in looking at other options.

Does Israel still have the technological capability to design a first-rate fighter aircraft? That needs to be examined in some depth. No doubt some of the capability that existed at the time of the Lavi project has been lost over the years, but as has been proved time and again, Israel has a world-class technological capability. Its success in unmanned aerial vehicles is only one of a number of examples.

If it turns out that the capability to design the IAF’s next fighter aircraft does exist in Israel, where could we go from there? Not to the U.S. Congress in search of funding, because we would have to remind them that 27 years ago they were fools to invest $1 billion in the development of the Lavi that Israel decided it did not want. We would have to look for partners who are prepared to invest resources in such a project, who have the necessary technological capability, and who are not involved in the F-35 project.

Are there such candidates? In theory, yes. France, with a great aeronautical industry, chose not to participate in the F-35 project. India, with a considerable aeronautical capability and a meteorically growing economy, might be another candidate. And there is Russia. Perhaps none of them would be interested, and perhaps all of them would be. It’s worth a try.
Israpundit » Blog Archive » The Lavi Fighter

As always this is part of the Discussion, and read the comments.


I’ll take a good deal of exception to that second article. For one thing, the Lavi didn’t offer any substantial advantage over the F-16, and certainly wasn’t in the class of the F-35. It’s unlikely that it could have matched even the former in terms of payload/range; it was a smaller aircraft with almost 20% less thrust (it was a lower bypass ratio version of the F100 that powered the F-16, and as a consequence would have had worse fuel efficiency at the low altitudes where they would have to operate on ground attack missions). Second, the cancelling of the Lavi had less to do with Israeli politics than it did with the fact that the U.S. was tired of footing the lion’s (no pun intended) share of the bill for it, which it was.

Third, as to whether or not they still have the technology to develop a fighter, they didn’t have it then. They didn’t have the resources, the engine was from the U.S., and so were the wings. The Kfir wasn’t even a totally new design, but an extensive redesign of the French Mirage series (to accomodate a U.S. engine; General Electric J-79).Israel aeronautical engineering is amazing, but they’re just too small. Even in Europe they ran into this problem and started colaborative efforts such as the SEPECAT Jaguar (in the '60s!), Panavia Tornado, Dassault-Breget/Dornier Alpha Jet, Eurofighter Typhoon, and Eurocopter Tiger/Tigre.

Furthermore, the author is naive if he thinks it’s a good idea to court Russia for a new fighter.

I do think the F-35 bit off a little more than it could chew. The STOVL capability of the U.S.M.C./R.A.F. version was asking a bit much. I think (in hindsight) that this would have been better left to a purely research project, rather than trying to force it to work on a large scale. That’s what gave the V-22 Osprey program a lot of grief.


382 billion dollars

Is that all…So Congress can allocate 800 billion dollars for companies but they can’t allocate 382 billion for our nations defense?


Pilot operated air crafts are on there way to being obsolete anyway.


Not for quite a while, I daresay. AI has a loooooooooooooooooooog way to go. Computers are stupid and will often times come up with the most ridiculous and inefficient ways to execute a command or respond to stimulous.


Well its not that it will be replaced with AI systems but at the moment they are being remote flown. I haven’t read the latest on AI tech but last I checked it was making great strides. But I just like differentiate “AI” into 2 different categories being VI and AI where AI is self aware and a VI is not and just has thousands of programmed responses or a adaptive response system.


I think RPVs are the thing. Even the Predator and Global Hawk have shown interesting capability, and it lends itself well to a fighter (especially without a G-limited pilot).


To tell you the truth an air force might be obsolete in the next hundred years. Laser technology is advancing at such a fast rate that it’s almost seems fiction.


I don’t see it happening. Lasers don’t go around the curvature of the Earth, satallites with a lasers (and power sources) large enough to be effective against the range of targets that aircraft are (and that’s not even counting nukes, which are more cost-efficiently delivered by either free-fall bomb or cruise missiles with the range of an IRBM (not ICBM)) would be about stealth-impossible, and would be cost-prohibitive, especially in the numbers to provide not only worldwide coverage, but enough in theater (high-power lasers would need large capacitors with a recharge time, so it’s not like just one could win the war). Aircraft, however, can be made stealth as well as flying on the deck where radar is a lot less effective for a variety of reasons.


I have to agree with FC here. Plus we will always need a Airforce in one capacity or another.


If you have an extremely powerful laser(especially on that is mobile) that has a beam that can travel at the speed of light I doubt any aircraft will be flying around to see what will happen.

Not that they will win wars, but they’ll change them.


Even having a laser would still limit you fighting abilities. If you have a constant beam weapon you have the problem of firing it then stopping then acquiring a new target and firing it again. Now unless you have a long range acquisition system then you might be in a tough spot. The best way to utilize a laser weapon is as a pulse weapon. it allows for a quicker firing rate and can be mounted on airplanes just as easy. plus it makes for a good anti missile system as well. You don’t need a laser that is strong unless you re going up against a heavily shielded object.


I don’t think we’re going to see land-mobile lasers powerful enough to do much of anything in a century. They’re just now getting rail guns small enough for a warship. And like Seravee said, you have to detect and lock on to the target before you can shoot it. It’s easy with a laser once you get there, but getting there with stealth and other technology in play is going to make that difficult.


Hmm… How about 200 years?


Dunno. I imagine a lot will depend on whether or not there’s much left of civilization by then…


It will still say “Made in China” if the Lib’s have anything to say about it.


No it won’t. We won’t even have a military if the Democrats have anything to say about it. :rofl:


Whenever I hear talk of lasers, I flash back to high school (early 1960’s) and a field trip to Johnsville Naval Air Development Center / Naval Air Station Warminster PA. They were experimenting with Lasers there and I had an opportunity to see a rather crude laser that occupied a table about 20 to 30 feet in length. They liked showing off how they burned holes in wood.

FC you might be interested in some photos on this web site, including An Aero-Space Lines Super Guppy. You may be familiar but I never saw such an unusual looking cargo plane.

Abandoned & Little-Known Airfields: Pennsylvania - Northwestern Philadelphia area



I’m familiar with the Super Guppy. Started out as a Boeing Stratocruiser (airliner development of the B-29 Superfortress), and was created and used to haul the third stage of a Saturn V moon rocket.