Woody Allen famously said that 80 percent of life was just showing up. Being where you are needed — when you are needed — is, indeed, very useful.
How many years does it take a new weapon to show up, well 22 years and apparently still counting.
The F-35, an expensive weapon platform that was supposed to revolutionize American warfare, isn’t useful and has not fully shown up yet.
A little background here for readers who don’t follow the weapons appropriation process of the federal government. During the 1990s, Pentagon experts decided they could save a lot of money by replacing a number of their existing jets with a single design, the F-35. There would be no more need for an F-14, F-15, A-10, and so forth. Instead, the F-35 could do it all.
This plane, named the Joint Strike Fighter, would be slightly modified for the various branches. The Navy version could land on carriers. The Air Force version would be invisible to radar. The Marine version would be able to take off and land without a runway. But the frame would be the same.
Some predicted that a plane designed to do everything would instead accomplish nothing. Sadly, those people have been shown to be right.
It took 20 years for the Air Force version of the F-35 to be declared “combat-capable.” Even when that finally happened — in 2017 — the plane didn’t actually go into combat. Instead, it spent another two years working out bugs before flying a single mission this year.
This wouldn’t matter as much if this was a small investment. Not every weapon system lives up to expectations. However, the F-35 is the most expensive weapon system ever built, by anyone, anywhere. And there is no end in sight. The cost of the plane was supposed to come down over time, as other countries would be sharing in the costs. Plus the contractor, Lockheed Martin, would have building the F-35 down to a science by now. That hasn’t happened either.
In fact, the F-35 just gets more expensive as the years roll by. Just five years ago the Government Accountability Office found that the fleet of F-35s would cost 79 percent more to operate than the planes they would replace. So much for the big savings.
In what appears to be normal protocol for government contracting and spending the actual cost per fighter jet is currently above $100 million, that is approximately double what Lockheed Martin told our government.
Even now, the government admits that “F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program costs grew in the first quarter of fiscal year 2019, according to a new Selected Acquisition Report, which reflects a $25 billion increase in base year 2012 dollars.”
Of course, the military hasn’t been sitting still while Lockheed tried to get the F-35 up-and-
running. The United States has been fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq and elsewhere all these years, and the supposedly obsolete aircraft the F-35 was supposed to replace have been very useful.
In May, Air Force Times reported that B-52s and F-15s began deterrence sorties aimed at Iran. These planes have remained workhorses throughout the violence in the Middle East in recent decades. Consider the military action in Iraq and Syria, which the Air Force joined in 2014. In the first three years, it flew some 55,000 sorties. None of those were flown by the expensive F- 35. Instead, it used effective F-15 and F-18 jets to get the job done.
Meanwhile, in Afghanistan, RealClearDefense reports, “The Air Force utilizes manned and
unmanned aircraft such as B-52s, F-16s, and MQ-9 Reaper drones to provide air support to land forces and hit terrorist targets.” No F-35s in the skies there, either, almost two decades into a war.
Since the September 11 attacks, the U.S. military has been showing up all over the world,
defending freedom at a very high cost. Thousands of service members have given their lives to protect us. In all that time, the billions of dollars invested by the federal government in the F-35 have contributed nothing to that fight. The plane sits mostly idle, while others carry out the attacks.
The government appears to be taking the same attitude it did with the banks during the recession believing this weapons program is too big to fail. Well nothing is too big to fail and it is time our government realizes that we are experiencing a non-recoverable flight anomaly and it is time to seriously think about punching out and pull that ejection handle.
Our country needs planes it can count on. Sadly, the F-35 isn’t among them.