USAF concludes F-35 is not the plane they set out to make

09philj

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The USAF's chief of staff has floated the idea of developing a new lightweight low-cost fighter to replace the air force's aging fleet of F-16 Fighting Falcons, and complement their higher end F-22 Raptors and F-35 Lightning IIs.

This is all well and good, but there was a project years ago that was supposed to deliver this kind of aircraft. It was called the Joint Strike Fighter program, and was intended to deliver an affordable plane that could cover the needs of not just the air force, but the army and navy too. Twenty years and about $1.5 trillion later, what they've actually produced is the F-35 Lightning II, which is actually three different and very expensive variants. The F-35 is not a failure as far as the performance of the aircraft itself is concerned; each variant does serve some need for the branch that will use it, and it will be sold to other countries like Britain who need to replace their aging fleet of Typhoons and decommissioned Harriers. What it is a failure of is management, as the project has run over time, over budget, and well outside the original brief. The question is, now the air force has to start from scratch, will they learn their lesson?
 

Chimpzy

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Learn a lesson? You say that as if having to start over is a bad thing. Think of the wonders this'll do for the economy. The opportunities for innovation, for creating new jobs, and for lining pockets. Surely, no expense is too much to ensure American security?

And it's not like they have a choice, is there? I mean, if they don't start over, America would be left defenceless, and at that point might as well roll out the red carpet for the [insert enemy of the week here]. Is that what you want? For the [insert enemy of the week] to win? Why do you hate America?
 

Worgen

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Whatever, just wash your hands.
As annoying as it is, the days of actually piloted fighter aircraft might be over, things might be drones now.
 

09philj

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Learn a lesson? You say that as if having to start over is a bad thing. Think of the wonders this'll do for the economy. The opportunities for innovation, for creating new jobs, and for lining pockets. Surely, no expense is too much to ensure American security?

And it's not like they have a choice, is there? I mean, if they don't start over, America would be left defenceless, and at that point might as well roll out the red carpet for the [insert enemy of the week here]. Is that what you want? For the [insert enemy of the week] to win? Why do you hate America?
This kind of attitude is one of the main things that sustains the military industrial complex. The other big thing is sunk cost fallacy. There were many points at which the Pentagon could have decided that the F-35 was a bad idea and killed the project and replaced it with several more practical ideas, but since so much had been spent already they decided to just keep going and hope that they could somehow eventually deliver the planes they originally wanted. Obviously Lockheed was being paid through the nose to continue their contract, so they had no incentive at all to suggest terminating the project, even as it gaily waltzed off brief and over budget.
 

Thaluikhain

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As annoying as it is, the days of actually piloted fighter aircraft might be over, things might be drones now.
Sooner or later a drone will be hacked and made to attack friendly forces, and there will be quite a kerfuffle.

This kind of attitude is one of the main things that sustains the military industrial complex. The other big thing is sunk cost fallacy. There were many points at which the Pentagon could have decided that the F-35 was a bad idea and killed the project and replaced it with several more practical ideas, but since so much had been spent already they decided to just keep going and hope that they could somehow eventually deliver the planes they originally wanted.
Also you've got other nations who are paying for the things, pulling out is no small thing to do. And the cost for developing the thing isn't affected by how many of them you build, somebody pulls out or reduces their order and the cost goes up (or rather, is redistributed) for everyone else.

But there've been known problems with the thing for ages. Having said that, a new piece of military hardware coming out with all sorts of problems is hardly unusual.
 

Agema

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This is all well and good, but there was a project years ago that was supposed to deliver this kind of aircraft. It was called the Joint Strike Fighter program, and was intended to deliver an affordable plane that could cover the needs of not just the air force, but the army and navy too. Twenty years and about $1.5 trillion later, what they've actually produced is the F-35 Lightning II, which is actually three different and very expensive variants. The F-35 is not a failure as far as the performance of the aircraft itself is concerned; each variant does serve some need for the branch that will use it, and it will be sold to other countries like Britain who need to replace their aging fleet of Typhoons and decommissioned Harriers. What it is a failure of is management, as the project has run over time, over budget, and well outside the original brief. The question is, now the air force has to start from scratch, will they learn their lesson?
Given my belief that a substantial function of defence funding is to ensure the viability of a country's own defence industry, and to legally subsidise (trade treaties usually restrict subsidies) R&D for engineering companies, I'd argue the F-35 is one of the most successful military aircraft ever made.
 

Eacaraxe

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F-35 program performed exactly as intended. It was the pitch perfect money laundry for the defense industry for decades, while serving as an endless pork barrel for "national security" Congressvermin, the defense industry lobbyists they serve, and the "birds and stars"-to-defense executives pipeline. This is the same bullshit that happened in the late '70s and early '80s all over again.

If the US wants to get serious about national defense, it needs to flush the careerists out of the Pentagon, put the choke collar back on the defense industry, and start voting out dipshit chicken hawks who can't walk down K-street without tripping and falling onto a defense lobbyist's dick lips first. F-35 is just the tip of the "degrading the US's warfighting capability to line pockets" iceberg. But frankly, I'd start with the Navy rather than bird dog a stupid fucking multi-role fighter that fails to exceed the benchmarks in any potential battlefield role by 40-year-old aircraft designed and made at a rare conjunction of the planets in which the desire for effectiveness surpassed greed.
 

Gethsemani

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As annoying as it is, the days of actually piloted fighter aircraft might be over, things might be drones now.
Not until the very obvious limitations of drones in a high intensity conflict is solved. Drones suffers from one glaring, easily exploited weakness against a conventional military enemy (ie. not insurgents and rebels): It is remote controlled and thus susceptible to interference and jamming. For any semi-modern military force it is child's play to lay down massive amounts of interference to disrupt enemy wireless communications, regardless of if they are radio, network or satellite. Drones will serve a purpose for contesting air space over territory which neither side controls (seas, for example) and for recon and real time awareness of the battlefield but if you want to operate over enemy air space you will still need manned aircraft to ensure that you don't lose your entire air force to one well timed broad-spectrum jammer.
 

Gergar12

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The problem is not the F-35 is too expensive. The problem is that the Pentagon wants to bomb terrorists, proxies, and near-peer countries like China, and Russia. That requires two types of planes a lo or low tech plane for missions where the enemy doesn't have lots of air-defense, but it's too expensive to use an F-35, or F22, and a hi or high tech plane for missions where there are networked, integrated anti-air networks.

Funny this sub was ranting on, and on about how the plane doesn't work. but now that it works it's too expensive, and when Lockheed gets its' costs to below 25,000 per flight hour it will be another excuse to not buy the plane while China and Russia produce swarms of fifth-gen drones, and J-31s, J-20s, and SU-57s.

I think we should ignore most low-intensity terrorist threats and some proxies in favor of fighting near-peers who form existential threats to US sovereignty, and trade. Besides the most dangerous proxy group other than an entire nation-state is Hezbollah, and the Israels have taken care of that pretty well.
 
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Eacaraxe

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...but if you want to operate over enemy air space you will still need manned aircraft to ensure that you don't lose your entire air force to one well timed broad-spectrum jammer.
Keyword, well-timed. As in, red team anti-air is already mobilized and aware of targets' approach.

UAV's don't have to keep a meatbag inside it alive. That directly translates to lower weight, smaller radar profile, higher operational speed and ceiling due to higher thrust to weight ratios. Which means it's harder to track, and likely in and out of the AO before anti-air can mobilize and acquire the target to deploy electromagnetic countermeasure. Even accounting for what you said, UAV's would already have a place in rapid dominance doctrine as a preliminary/preemptive strike weapons platform to target anti-air installations and infrastructure critical to enemy warfighting capability.

But at that point, you're basically just launching a ballistic missile that drops independently-targetable cluster munitions then returns to base.
 

The Rogue Wolf

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Aww. Well, no boondoggle lasts forever, my son.
F-35 program performed exactly as intended. It was the pitch perfect money laundry for the defense industry for decades, while serving as an endless pork barrel for "national security" Congressvermin, the defense industry lobbyists they serve, and the "birds and stars"-to-defense executives pipeline.
You can pass part of that blame onto voters who vote for those Congressvermin on their ability to "bring home the pork". Remember, it's only a waste of taxpayer dollars if it helps people somewhere else!
 

Trunkage

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This kind of attitude is one of the main things that sustains the military industrial complex.
The guy who talked about Military Industrial Complex was the same guy who was doodling himself but as a ripped 20 year as the US took over Guatemala. Also started the assassination game that would have made Bush Jnr blush

He gave a warning about something he started and couldn’t control
 

Gordon_4

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As annoying as it is, the days of actually piloted fighter aircraft might be over, things might be drones now.
Reaper drones are known to lose their satellite connection if they bank to hard in any given direction. Top Gun isn't going away anytime fuckin' soon.
 

Worgen

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Whatever, just wash your hands.
Reaper drones are known to lose their satellite connection if they bank to hard in any given direction. Top Gun isn't going away anytime fuckin' soon.
Sure, but aside from a deterrent for other major powers, how much does that come up? It seems like air forces in modern conflicts are mainly about being able to provide air support and its probably easier to have a drone just in the air all day then an A-10, especially since those have been decommissioned which was a stupid thing to do.
 

Gordon_4

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Sure, but aside from a deterrent for other major powers, how much does that come up? It seems like air forces in modern conflicts are mainly about being able to provide air support and its probably easier to have a drone just in the air all day then an A-10, especially since those have been decommissioned which was a stupid thing to do.
Well you'll get no arguement from me that retiring the A-10 was stupid, it perhaps has less place in the current conflicts since its primary role is air anti-armour support but that's a vital role to be needed against any other comparable power. Plus they're looking at extending the B-52's service life to the 2050s which would make it the oldest airframe design still in active service at a century.
 

Gergar12

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Sure, but aside from a deterrent for other major powers, how much does that come up? It seems like air forces in modern conflicts are mainly about being able to provide air support and its probably easier to have a drone just in the air all day then an A-10, especially since those have been decommissioned which was a stupid thing to do.
The chances of an A-10a dropping its ordnance in S-400, and S-300, and short-range AA, and SAM Network is zero. It will get shot down because missiles pack more punch than a 23mm round.

A-10a were useless when they were made, and introduced due to soviet air defenses, the only reason they prove useful was that Dubya wanted to invade two countries in the Middle East because France and Russia wanted Iraqi oil to be exported to them so they vetoed a Un intervention into Iraq, plus 9/11, and Bin Laden in Afghanistan, and because Bush was paranoid that the EU's euro was going to replace the dollar so he reinforced the petrodollar.
 
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Seanchaidh

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Sure, but aside from a deterrent for other major powers, how much does that come up? It seems like air forces in modern conflicts are mainly about being able to provide air support and its probably easier to have a drone just in the air all day then an A-10, especially since those have been decommissioned which was a stupid thing to do.
The fundamental purpose of an air force is not to murder the diffuse militants of "modern conflicts", which amounts to one of the fixed costs of imperial maintenance. They are to engage in desperate armed struggle against another capable military with its own air force and mass destructive capabilities.
 

Thaluikhain

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Sure, but aside from a deterrent for other major powers, how much does that come up? It seems like air forces in modern conflicts are mainly about being able to provide air support and its probably easier to have a drone just in the air all day then an A-10, especially since those have been decommissioned which was a stupid thing to do.
As mentioned, modern conflicts are about hitting people who can't hit back. You don't want to base your military around that if you expect to possibly fight someone who can hit back.

By comparison, people keep saying that the US didn't learn from Vietnam. It seems to an extent that this was a deliberate choice, they didn't want to learn how to fight a war in some country nobody heard of, they wanted to learn how to fight the USSR in Germany.
 
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Gethsemani

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Keyword, well-timed. As in, red team anti-air is already mobilized and aware of targets' approach.

UAV's don't have to keep a meatbag inside it alive. That directly translates to lower weight, smaller radar profile, higher operational speed and ceiling due to higher thrust to weight ratios. Which means it's harder to track, and likely in and out of the AO before anti-air can mobilize and acquire the target to deploy electromagnetic countermeasure. Even accounting for what you said, UAV's would already have a place in rapid dominance doctrine as a preliminary/preemptive strike weapons platform to target anti-air installations and infrastructure critical to enemy warfighting capability.

But at that point, you're basically just launching a ballistic missile that drops independently-targetable cluster munitions then returns to base.
Modern AA systems have the capability to reliably intercept cruise missiles. A UAV can reach neither the speeds nor the G forces of a cruise missile and present a bigger radar signature. They are comparatively easy targets for conventional AA systems and since they are so vulnerable to jamming (which also deploys far faster then even the best modern missiles like Aster or Iris-T) they are not a realistic threat in an open conflict. As I said, they have their functions and are an important asset in a rounded military arsenal, but they are not a replacement for manned aircraft in conventional conflicts between actual state military forces because of this weakness to the most basic of tools of signal warfare units.