Thursday, July 2, 2015

F-35 Stealth Fighter: Cost, Production, and Combat Effectiveness in Question

F-35 Lightning II (Stealth Joint Strike Fighter)

This post is related to this dramatic headline:
Military: Don't Worry if the F-35 “The Most-Expensive Fighter Jet Ever” Can't Dogfight

First this background on the plane:  
·         In 1997, Lockheed Martin was selected as one of two companies to participate in the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) concept demonstration phase.
·         In October 2001, the Lockheed Martin X-35 was chosen as the winner of the competition and teamed with Northrop Grumman and BAE Systems to begin production.
·         In February 2006, the first produced F-35A rolled out of the assembly in Fort Worth, Texas. Later that year, it, in development by the United States and eight other countries, was named the “Lightning II” in homage to two earlier fighters.
·         In December of 2006, the F-35 completed its first flight. Over the next few years, flight and ground test articles of all three variants rolled off the production line and began collecting test points.
·         In February 2011, the first produced F-35 conducted its first flight with deliveries beginning that very same year.
·         In 2012, the F-35 ramped up with 30 aircraft deliveries and increased testing operations across the United States. The program reached several milestones in weapons separation testing, angle of attack testing, aerial refueling training, and surpassed more than 5,000 flight hours with more than 2,100 recorded flights in that year.
Now, the source article of this post is from this story (ABC News – July 1, 2015), in part: The makers of one of the most expensive weapons programs in history went on the defensive today, saying a recent report on the F-35 fighter jet’s failures in old-school dogfighting against a decades-old, much cheaper legacy fighter “does not tell the whole story.”
The report in question, posted on the national security news website War Is Boring, was based on an internal five-page brief in which an F-35 test pilot wrote a scathing criticism of the next-generation jet’s abilities in a January dogfight with an F-16, one of the planes the F-35 is designed to replace.
Essentially, the pilot reportedly wrote, the F-35 was no match for the F-16 in close-up, high maneuvering fighting – whether the F-35 was trying to get the F-16 in its sights or trying to evade the F-16’s mock weapons.
“The F-35 was at a distinct energy disadvantage,” the test pilot reportedly wrote. “There were not compelling reasons to fight in this region.” Now the Pentagon’s F-35 Program Office did what the actual $138 million jet (GAO report) apparently couldn't, well, they are fighting back.
I conclude that it would be great to get the whole story, and ideally the whole truth and nothing but the truth … and not from members of congress protecting their aircraft production turf, either.
Related media coverage on this subject:
From Business Insider February 2014

And this extensive chronology from the NY Times (dating back to 2011)

A story worth following. Thanks for stopping by.

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