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The Pentagon's $399 Billion Plane To Nowhere 364

Posted by Soulskill
from the flights-of-fancy dept.
schwit1 writes with an update on the U.S. government's troubled F-35 program, the cost of which keeps rising while the planes themselves are grounded. A fire in late June caused officials to halt flights for the entire fleet of $112 million vehicles last week. Despite this, Congress is still anxious to push the program forward, and Foreign Policy explains why: Part of that protection comes from the jaw-dropping amounts of money at stake. The Pentagon intends to spend roughly $399 billion to develop and buy 2,443 of the planes. However, over the course of the aircrafts' lifetimes, operating costs are expected to exceed $1 trillion. Lockheed has carefully hired suppliers and subcontractors in almost every state to ensure that virtually all senators and members of Congress have a stake in keeping the program — and the jobs it has created — in place. "An upfront question with any program now is: How many congressional districts is it in?" said Thomas Christie, a former senior Pentagon acquisitions official. Counting all of its suppliers and subcontractors, parts of the program are spread out across at least 45 states. That's why there's no doubt lawmakers will continue to fund the program even though this is the third time in 17 months that the entire fleet has been grounded due to engine problems."
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The Pentagon's $399 Billion Plane To Nowhere

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 09, 2014 @05:41PM (#47419629)
    The whole program should be scrapped. It's time to cut the losses on this boondoggle. Lots of states will lose jobs? Oh well, guess you idiots shouldn't have fucked up the program so royally if you wanted to hang on to those jobs. Trust me, the money will be spent somewhere else and there will be jobs to be had there. Let's build a dozen nuclear power plants for starters and go from there.
    • by bobbied (2522392) on Wednesday July 09, 2014 @06:35PM (#47420199)

      Haven't done any government work lately eh? All programs like this are politically important and have to be managed as such.

      Many aircraft projects are insanely expensive ventures and the F-35 is no exception. Many have serious issues, the F-35 is not the first nor will it be the last. It is the nature of the problem. The F4U (Corsair) had serious handling problems, the F6F Hellcat had serious performance issues, yet both where put into production because they where the best tools we had at the time and they filled the need.

      In the case of the F-35, the problems are many and mostly government created, but the aircraft serves the need for replacing the AV8-B, F-15, F-16 and F18 as the front line of all the services that fly fixed wing. But, It's very early to decide that the F35 is a lost cause. Do we need to hold the contractor(s) feet to the fire? You bet. but there IS NO OTHER OPTION. Development of other options will be another insanely expensive exercise, as would going back and building more of the decades old aircraft it is designed to replace. So, we go forward..... Any other option will cost more at this point, so we are going to spend what it takes. Lockheed knows this.

      Unless of course you don't mind not having an air force, close air support or the ability to launch fighters/attach aircraft from carriers in the near future..... I'm not willing to go down that route again because the last time we tried the unilateral disarmament approach it resulted in a pretty messy world war or two... It seems cheaper to pay Lockheed for the F35 now...

      • by Luckyo (1726890) on Wednesday July 09, 2014 @06:54PM (#47420363)

        The problem with your argument is that you argue that F-35 is necessary to replace those aircraft. It's not. NATO already has several functional aircraft that do what F-35 does, and do it much better. Rafale is a far superior multirole attack focused aircraft for example (far greater payload, has a superb jamming system instead of stealth which proved itself in Libya). F-18E/F will likely outperform it as an air superiority fighter, as will Eurofighter. All of these are cheaper and proven to work.

        And if you're looking at competition against states like Russia and China, having a few expensive and largely dysfunctional "sorta" stealth fighters is a far worse option than having many cheaper, proven and reliable fighters with close range electronic warfare support aircraft mixed in. Notably that is how NATO forces operate nowadays, and that is why they have such a high survivability against SAM threats (with exception of Rafale, which appears to basically be an "electronic warfare aircraft lite" on its own, as proven in Libya where it was the only NATO aircraft to conduct air strikes without electronic warfare aircraft support).

        The only ones who would take a hit are those who were planning to replace Harriers, because there's simply no replacement for Harrier in existence. That means UK that needs Harriers for its aircraft carriers and US marine corps. Everyone else would do just fine with F-18, Rafale and Eurofighter. Or if they need a really cheap lighter option, Gripen.

        • by fahrbot-bot (874524) on Wednesday July 09, 2014 @07:30PM (#47420607)

          F-18E/F will likely outperform it [F-35] as an air superiority fighter, as will Eurofighter. All of these are cheaper and proven to work.

          The F-35 isn't intended as a air-superiority fighter, the F-22 is. From: http://theaviationist.com/2014... [theaviationist.com]

          But now, the F-22 must be upgraded through a costly service life extension plan and modernization program because, “If I do not keep that F-22 fleet viable, the F-35 fleet frankly will be irrelevant. The F-35 is not built as an air superiority platform. It needs the F-22,” says [Chief of U.S. Air Force Air Combat Command Gen. Michael] Hostage to Air Force Times.

          In addition, from Wikipedia:

          F-22 [wikipedia.org] ... designed primarily as an air superiority fighter, but has additional capabilities including ground attack, electronic warfare, and signals intelligence roles.

          F-35 [wikipedia.org] ... designed to perform ground attack, reconnaissance, and air defense missions with stealth capability. ... The design goals call for the F-35 to be the premier strike aircraft through 2040 and to be second only to the F-22 Raptor in air superiority.

          • by Luckyo (1726890) on Wednesday July 09, 2014 @11:26PM (#47421851)

            Unfortunately much of that is outright lie. Lockheed Martin specifically sold F-35 to other countries under the umbrella of "you can replace all your fighter, attack and close combat support aircraft with this one machine". This is why they got so many countries on board with financing in spite of having no aircraft to show for it.

            This has since been proven to be false, to the point where several countries like Australia have opted to buy other aircraft like F/A-18E/F models to replacing their aging fleets instead of F-35 after failures of F-35 became evident.

            As for "design goals" as it comes to F-35, is there really anyone still having that discussion, other than Lockheed Martin shills? We already know they failed at meeting essentially all of them, and design requirements had to be continuously reduced so that aircraft would have at least some chance of meeting them. Knowledge of this is widely available in mass media.

        • by bobbied (2522392)

          The problem with your argument is that you argue that F-35 is necessary to replace those aircraft. It's not. NATO already has several functional aircraft that do what F-35 does, and do it much better.

          You argue that stealth isn't a big deal (in the parts of your post I just snipped), I'm not so sure. I'm also not sure that the F-35 compares as badly to the other options from our NATO friends. It seems to me that ALL your suggestions might fit the current need in the roles you suggest, with three critical flaws.

          First, none of these are American made and that is a political problem first and foremost. No congressman in his right mind would suggest we scrap the F-35 in favor of buying our jets from some

          • by Luckyo (1726890) on Wednesday July 09, 2014 @11:19PM (#47421829)

            Point one: I'm looking at it from the point of view of other countries. I readily concede the fact that US will never buy a French jet, even if it's far better suited for the role. It took immense amount of wrangling just to get Harrier in, even though it literally had no alternatives.

            Your second point is moot. F-35's commonality is reported at around thirty percent today, and it's likely to go down rather than up as development continues. This is actually one of the biggest failures in the program, and was widely reported.

            Your third point is extremely debatable. F-35's stealth is already been reported to be exceptionally lacking in all but frontal hemispheres, and in addition to that it has very little in terms of payload when it's stealthy. It needs to have external hardpoints (read: no stealth from any direction) for any meaningful strike package for example, or to have a meaningful range which it woefully lacks.

            So we go back to point one, which as I admitted, I readily concede. But in that regard, there is one point that is being argued in US today: that F-35 program should be scrapped and in its place US should develop three separate fighters (because of point #2 being proven largely failed today). This would get all users an aircraft that is actually at least decent for the designed purpose, instead of an abortion of an aircraft in all usage scenarios that F-35 is increasingly proven to be.

      • I understand your argument and reject it. The F-35 is a bad idea from the ground up. A multi-role fighter that does everything half ass and excells at nothing. A single engine warcraft which is probably the most insane thing about it. Did we learn nothing at all from the F-16? At least the Falcon was cheap so when they started falling out of the sky by the dozen they didn't cost us the insane amount these do. These are going to hurt bad when they turn into lawn darts. It's time to stop the bleeding a

      • Imagine, if instead of putting all their eggs into the F35, a large sum of funds went to a new version of the F18. Could this plane serve many roles, much cheaper and perhaps far better? We could use the remaining funds to build one or more specialized planes for any other needs. Furthermore, with the advancement of drones, better missiles, and possible within the next decade or so space planes/drones, just how effective will the F35 actually turn out to be?

        The very fact that we are in the position of d
    • by ron_ivi (607351) <sdotno@cheapcomplexdevice s . com> on Wednesday July 09, 2014 @06:41PM (#47420253)

      Lots of states will lose jobs?

      They don't even lose jobs.

      The money their taxpayers save can be spent locally creating the same amount (measured in dollars) of jobs that it would have if the money makes a round trip through the federal government along the way.

    • Not a boondoggle (Score:4, Insightful)

      by rsilvergun (571051) on Wednesday July 09, 2014 @08:08PM (#47420875)
      It's just socialism. This is how we do socialism in the United States. We don't have enough work for people to do any more. Too much outsourcing and too much automation. So we either start letting people die in the streets or we start redistributing wealth.

      Thing is we spend most of the 50s-90s talking about how Socialism is Evil (tm) . It's heavily engrained in our populace. So we needed a form of Socialism that Americans could stomach. Enter the "Military Industrial Complex". Eisenhower built it up out of fear of another recession and regretted it. It pretty much warps our entire society...
  • by EMG at MU (1194965) on Wednesday July 09, 2014 @05:46PM (#47419681)
    Everybody with an IQ above that of a jellybean knows the main job of the congresscritters is to bring back the pork. The blue guys do it and the red guys do it.

    The reason they can keep doing it and no one really gives a shit is because once you explain to Joe Schmoe that cutting program X or agency Y's budget means he or his cousin or his drinking buddy could lose their job, well Joe can rationalize keeping that program.

    Americans all want pork cut everywhere except their home district. We are short sighted, have short memories, and aren't willing to endure short term discomfort in the pursuit of long term prosperity.

    Anyone candidate that would be for cutting this kind of corporate welfare isn't viable on a national ticket. Eisenhower was right about this all by the way.
    • by epyT-R (613989) on Wednesday July 09, 2014 @06:01PM (#47419851)

      Careful. Short term discomfort lasted 70 years for the soviets. The government needs to stop inflating the currency, fix the tax code so that each tax is justified for one specific case, with all funds directed to that case, close the loopholes for the wealthy, pay off the debt, and then lower the unneeded tax once that's done. Basically it needs to work within a budget like the rest of us.

      These F35s are way too expensive to be useful in a battle. China would throw 10x as many half assed shitboxes and still win. They need to be cheap and reliable. These F35s are expensive and failure prone, like a lot of products today. "The more they over do the plumbing, the easier it is to stop up the drain".

      • by suutar (1860506) on Wednesday July 09, 2014 @06:18PM (#47420023)

        what's ironic is that one of China's more recent models appears to be based on the F-35 but without the attempt at VTOL hampering the other design goals and running up the cost.

      • by AHuxley (892839) on Wednesday July 09, 2014 @07:47PM (#47420723) Homepage Journal
        China would throw 10x as many half assed shitboxes and still win. They need to be cheap and reliable
        Russia and China learned a lot for their well placed spies in the US during Vietnam and later the Soviet Unions experiences in Afghanistan. You dont get a clean airstrip, you get crumbling cement, you dont get moderate temperatures. You dont get to slow fast fighters down, you dont get to go low and see all with the new fast kit you had for the next war.
        So you have to invest in a lot of different kit, that looks after the crew and lets you fly a varied missions with the crew returning.
        The US has tried to focus on emerging electronics and packing multiple roles into one export winner.
        Can expensive mercenaries and contractors flying networked drones really fill in the hours and ammo count when other established systems are replaced by the one export winner?
      • There is a strong consensus among economists that a small amount of inflation is desirable. Deflation is disastrous for an economy as it becomes more advantageous to sit on cash instead of being productive. The massive expansion of the money supply since the economic collapse of 2008 was necessary, and inflation has remained low. Things would be much worse if the money supply had not been expanded. You can imagine the fact that inflation remained low despite these massive influxes of money was indicative of
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The blue guys do it and the red guys do it.

      Not everybody does it. Some Tea Party Republicans have voted, on principle, to cut pork for their own districts. No Democrat would do that.

    • by Savage-Rabbit (308260) on Wednesday July 09, 2014 @06:46PM (#47420301)

      Everybody with an IQ above that of a jellybean knows the main job of the congresscritters is to bring back the pork. The blue guys do it and the red guys do it.

      The reason they can keep doing it and no one really gives a shit is because once you explain to Joe Schmoe that cutting program X or agency Y's budget means he or his cousin or his drinking buddy could lose their job, well Joe can rationalize keeping that program.

      Americans all want pork cut everywhere except their home district. We are short sighted, have short memories, and aren't willing to endure short term discomfort in the pursuit of long term prosperity.

      Anyone candidate that would be for cutting this kind of corporate welfare isn't viable on a national ticket. Eisenhower was right about this all by the way.

      Eisenhower was also right to be suspicious of 'think tanks', 'intelligence experts' and 'analysts'. One of the reasons he first pushed the U-2 program and then Corona was because 'expert intelligence tanalysts' told him the Soviets had Over 800 Myasishchev M-4 'Bison' bombers. Reconnaissance later revealed that the grand total strenght of the Soviet B-4 bomber force at the time was 20 aircraft, in fact one U-2 actually managed to catch the entire B-4 fleet in a single photograph. By the time Eisenhowers insistance on hard reconnaissance finally won out the USA had built hundreds of bombers to bridge an imaginary 'bomber gap'.

    • by mtrachtenberg (67780) on Wednesday July 09, 2014 @07:10PM (#47420473) Homepage

      If you can't stand these priorities, please consider signing this: http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/help-arriving-children

      Please let me explain what I am thinking in distributing this petition. I believe that Americans, like people everywhere, truly want to help others. But somehow, through a combination of fear and the greed of a few people, we no longer show this value in our government's budget. Instead, we spend more than $600 billion a year to fund the world's biggest military and the companies that build weapons, while sometimes thinking we cannot afford simple humanitarian programs.

      If Americans understood what we could buy for ourselves and our neighbors with just one percent of the military budget, I truly believe we'd shift our funding. One percent of our military budget could fund sixty $100,000,000 projects at home or around the world. And, with Central American kids risking their lives to travel to our borders, the need is evident.

      Some of us sometimes worry that welfare programs go to "undeserving" people. This is a time when, regardless of our beliefs about whether welfare works, we can easily see that people deserve our help and support -- these are kids fleeing poverty and danger.

      Groups like The Moral Majority have poisoned the word "moral" for many people I know. But true morality has nothing to do with conservative religious groups. True morality is using our wealth to help our neighbors in distress, not to further build an already oversized military. True morality is not turning our backs.

      And I further feel we find our own safety in true morality. A nation that is extending its arms to help others is less likely to be attacked than a nation that demonstrates concern only that the wealthiest 0.01% of the world not pay their fair share of the bills.

      Thanks for spreading the word!

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by jeIIomizer (3670945)

        If you can't stand these priorities, please consider signing this: http://petitions.moveon.org/si... [moveon.org]

        Great. More "for the children" bullshit. Why should children be treated as special? If we deport adults, I think we should deport children. If we don't deport children, I think we shouldn't deport adults, either. Pick one, or find another solution that's at least consistent. I'm tired of ageist bullshit.

  • by raymorris (2726007) on Wednesday July 09, 2014 @05:48PM (#47419701)

    The F-35 probably shouldn't have been built. At least, it shouldn't have been built the way it was. "Been built" is the key phrase. Most of the excess cost is already sunk. Nine countries have signed on to buy it. We can't reverse time and get the money back, and starting over from scratch would both a) cost more and b) lose most of the partner countries, meaning the US would pay more of the cost.

    Yes, maintaining planes costs money, and the F-35 is no exception. Is someone suggesting that the US should have no planes? Of course not, so maintenance costs will be incurred. There's no choice to be made there. I suppose we could spend nearly as much trying to keep F-15s flying. Would that be better?

    • by crgrace (220738) on Wednesday July 09, 2014 @05:57PM (#47419799)

      You seem to misunderstand what sunk cost means. You're using the phrase as an argument to keep funding the project because "we can't reverse time and get the money back". In fact, the common definition of the sunk cost is opposite of your use. Generally only future costs should be relevant to an investment decision, otherwise you run into the danger of "throwing good money after bad". There is a lot of evidence that continued funding of the F-35 is in fact throwing good money after bad.

      You also present a false dichotomy. One alternative option from spending upwards of a Trillion dollars on the F-35 is to manufacture more smaller, cheaper, proven fighters such as the F-18 or indeed the F-15. Keeping our current squadrons operable is less of an issue if we build more at lower cost.

      • by Duhavid (677874) on Wednesday July 09, 2014 @06:19PM (#47420027)

        You cannot continue to go out and fight with older weapons though.
        Nominally, the F-15/F-16/F-18 are not as survivable in a modern air war.
        A proven fighter is one that has been through the teething problems that the F-35 is going through now.
        It may well be that it would be better to start over, but we would then have to start another project, because the above mentioned fighters are getting long in the tooth.

        • by EnglishTim (9662) on Wednesday July 09, 2014 @06:27PM (#47420125)

          Just buy some Eurofighters...

        • by TubeSteak (669689) on Wednesday July 09, 2014 @06:40PM (#47420239) Journal

          You cannot continue to go out and fight with older weapons though.
          Nominally, the F-15/F-16/F-18 are not as survivable in a modern air war.

          The F-35 is a compromise design.
          Mostly it compromises its ability to loiter on the target, carry large amounts of munitions, and dogfight.
          So as long as you don't want to do any of those things, the F-35 is better than older weapons.

          A proven fighter is one that has been through the teething problems that the F-35 is going through now.

          Ha! The F-35's issues are not "teething problems," they are R&D problems.
          The F-35 is a procurement disaster of such epic proportions that tomes will be written to warn future generations on what not to do.

          Just to stay on topic, one of those tomes will talk about engine problems and why the military should source 2 different engine designs.
          It will also mention that, because of the F-35's unprecedented budget overruns, the second design was canceled [wikipedia.org].

          • by Duhavid (677874)

            Of course ( as already noted ) is a compromise.
            And it really isnt supposed to be dogfighting, I expect, but rather ( in an ungentlemanly fashion ) standing off and killing the enemy before they get close.

            And yes, they are R&D problems. Any advanced aircraft will be having those.

            Note, I am not saying that the F-35 is a perfect plane and is a model for procurement or production.
            All I have read leads me to think that there is plenty of learning in how to do it better next time.
            But I think it is still poss

        • by rahvin112 (446269) on Wednesday July 09, 2014 @06:47PM (#47420307)

          And most important of all and ignored totally by everyone is that every single plane the airforce has ever developed had these same growing pains. They all have massive cost overruns, groundings and unexplained crashes.

          They've spent the bulk of the money quoted for the planes. All those R&D dollars are gone. At this point the planes cost about $120 million a piece to build, which isn't that much more than an F-18. That's nothing, but because they include the R&D that's already spent you end up with dollar amounts that look massive. The less we buy the higher the amortized costs are.

          The F-35 is likely to be the last manned fighter ever produced. We've signed almost a dozen countries up to buy some and spread the costs out. It's going to totally streamline all the parts acquisition and maintenance and leave us with a single plane that handles almost every manned role. In time robotic aircraft or drones are going to take over all the dangerous roles. But that time is still decades off and we need something to keep our defense better than everyone else until that point. Air power and navy are two areas I have no problem with out government spending money on. They can be used to deny an enemy entry to the Americas and our separation from the Asian continent is one of the things that provides our best protection.

          • The F-35 is particularly awful because they tried to make an all services plane out of it. They probably could have made a combined USAF/USN fighter more or less easily. But adding the VTOL requirement for the Marines and the UK was the final straw.

            Last time the US tried something like this was with the F-111 and that was a procurement disaster.

        • by Luckyo (1726890)

          Current versions of all those aircraft are survivable. F-18E/F versions are quite modern and you could work on those to build the next version. Or you can buy Rafale/Eurofighter (depending on whether you need attack focused multirole or fighter focused multirole). And for cheap light fighter needs a la F-16, you can buy Gripen.

          • by Duhavid (677874)

            No one is standing still though.
            They will not be survivable forever, and you cant ( as we are seeing ) just wait and see.

            And I would be stunned and amazed if the USAF were to seriously consider buying aircraft from the same basic generation as the aircraft already in inventory. If they wanted that, they could continue building what they have ( with potential updates, of course ).

            The issues are the stealth features, which are hard to backfit on existing aircraft and the electronics/radar, which you might be

            • by Luckyo (1726890)

              They don't have to stand forever. As noted, you can develop from existing platforms, and you can use experience from F-22 and F-35 projects to design something that would actually perform its role.

              F-35 doesn't do that, and F-22 is still dysfunctional as anything other than pure air superiority fighter. Also I'm pretty sure that most NATO countries would gladly take it for air superiority role over F-35 if it was offered for export. So offer F-22 for export for air superiority tasks, and get Rafale or F-18 f

              • by Duhavid (677874)

                If you start again, which is an option, you don't always develop existing platforms, you develop new.
                Or we would not have the highly regarded aircraft we have.
                Especially in stealth, where the airplane shape is so important.

                F-22, air superiority is it's main task. It is not a swiss army knife.
                The F-14 and F-15 were not tasked with other roles until later in their evolution.

                Stealth is never handled by having other aircraft along. You move from visible to even more visible.
                Wild weasel aircraft will accompany

            • The electronics and radar have been retrofitted in these planes more than once. For example the F-16 Block 60 has an AESA radar.

              The stealth features are controversial in terms of utility. Plus they make these aircraft a pig to maintain.

              • by Duhavid (677874)

                Yes, if the package fits, you can retrofit, but there are limits.

                The aircraft's ease of maintenance is an issue, but it take a backseat to it's mission requirements.

        • One on one, maybe, but how many F-18/e can you build for the cost of *one* F-35?

          • by Duhavid (677874)

            How many F-18/E/F/G/H...'s will you need to build to accomplish the mission?
            If it doesn't survive well and doesn't knock down the enemy well enough, you might still blow your budget.
            And have more maintenance issues. And have to staff for that number of aircraft.

      • Yes, build more for less!
        Because the lives of pilots are expendable?

        • by Luckyo (1726890)

          In a large conflict that these are planned for? Yes. In those, everyone is expendable.

          For smaller conflicts, you just need a good ejection seat and a solid retrieval team on top of flying electronic warfare aircraft alongside others.

    • by jovius (974690)

      The project has become too politicized. And politicians will always look for their own interests, which keeps the expenses high. And without the political support there's no plane. It's a vicious and expensive cycle. The core of the problem is not the manufacturing costs, maintenance costs or especially the defects, which are only symptoms of the disease.

    • It shouldn't have been built, but for other reasons - the biggest one being the enemy for which they're designed to fight is not who the US military is likely to be dealing with in the future.

      What role do these hyper-advanced aircraft have when you're fighting Al-Qaeda, ISIS, or whoever the stone-age-terrorist-du-jour is? We're not going to be fighting China, that's for sure; both they and we are way to inter-dependent.

      So sure - the money already spent is sunk cost. But why throw good money after bad?

    • by bobbied (2522392)

      I totally agree with you. We are committed and have no other options. As you point out we could scrap the F35 and start over, but if one is upset over the program costs so far there will be no way you will be able to do it cheaper by starting over. One might be able to pull the project from Lockheed and give it to somebody else, but even that will likely cost a lot of money we don't have.

      Those who think we can do without the F35 are ignorant (or just plain nuts). The planes the F35 is going to replace

    • First of all, I think we all know that future warfare will be conducted with drones. You seem to be arguing to put money into a project that is completely USELESS. This is all about pork for Lockeed Martin.
    • We can't.

      Our two new aircraft carriers can't support anything other than helicopters and VTOL/STOL aircraft. This is thanks to the fuckwits in Whitehall, deciding that we wouldn't add the electric catapults, and thereby save a few million quid.

      These catapults would have allowed us to use cheap F-18s, at least in the short term. We scrapped our Sea Harrier fleet a few years ago (they were well past retirement).

      So, we've spent billions on two useless flat-tops, while we wait for the F-35 programme to go into

  • by Onuma (947856) on Wednesday July 09, 2014 @05:56PM (#47419775)
    The F-35 replaced the A-10 Thunderbolt II's role as a tank buster, CAS bomber...

    With the money we have spent on the F-35s to date, we could have repaired, retrofitted, and maintained our supply of A-10s for several decades. Hell, the A-10 is practically a flying tank. It has some of the best armament and is the most rugged fixed-wing aircraft which America has. It was a ridiculously short-sighted move to replace it with another overexpensive "multi role, joint" fighter.
    • by Savage-Rabbit (308260) on Wednesday July 09, 2014 @06:25PM (#47420097)

      The F-35 replaced the A-10 Thunderbolt II's role as a tank buster, CAS bomber...

      With the money we have spent on the F-35s to date, we could have repaired, retrofitted, and maintained our supply of A-10s for several decades. Hell, the A-10 is practically a flying tank. It has some of the best armament and is the most rugged fixed-wing aircraft which America has. It was a ridiculously short-sighted move to replace it with another overexpensive "multi role, joint" fighter.

      Yeah, F-35s replacing the A-10 good luck with that. The idea of the F-35 flying into the operational environment of the A-10, i.e. 0-3000ft which in a real shooting war is likely to be saturated by scrap fire and dominated by Manpads, full blown SAMs and mobile Flak such as Shilkas [wikipedia.org] and Tunguskas [wikipedia.org] and having the same survial rates as the A-10 always struck me as funny. Stealth is pretty much useless down there most of the kills are done with heat seeking missiles and the good old Mk.1 eyeball. Experience has shown several times now that no matter how many smart weapons they cook up there is no replacement for getting in good and close and blasting the shit out of the target with a 30mm gun.

    • by El_Oscuro (1022477) on Wednesday July 09, 2014 @07:12PM (#47420487) Homepage

      The parent is wrong. Nothing has replaced the A-10. The Pentagon tried to kill the Warthog earilier this year until everyone who actually uses them screamed bloody murder.

      This fricken plane is airworthy with half a wing and an engine missing. Could the F-35 do that?

      The Iraqis don't want us to send troops over there to deal with the ISIS business. They have plenty of troops of their own. What they have asked for is some air support. Immagine what a couple of A-10 squadrons would do there..

      • by Onuma (947856)
        I'm not entirely incorrect.

        Nothing currently available has the capability to replace the A-10, making it the best tool for the job. So while it hasn't been replaced yet, it cannot be effectively replaced in the foreseeable future.

        Semantics, I know.
      • by Rich0 (548339)

        The A10 was a wonder of an aircraft, but I'm not entirely sure it would still be useful in a serious war.

        Against ISIS it might be useful, assuming that they're fighting in open terrain. An A10 is not particularly useful against targets in the middle of a city - if anything an aircraft that can loiter at altitude might be more useful for dropping bombs on designated buildings - nobody is going to be swooping over city blocks and hitting the right building visually.

        Really the advantage of the A10 over other

  • Capabilities (Score:5, Interesting)

    by neonv (803374) on Wednesday July 09, 2014 @06:04PM (#47419887)

    This article doesn't mention the incredible upgrades of the F-35. It has incredible situational awareness (SA), highly networked to acquire SA from all sources, sensors onboard to provide SA, smaller that the F-22, more stealthy, and a range of other characteristics that the pentagon desires (wiki [wikipedia.org]). Those capabilities are the top reason for the F-35 to exist at all. As development has progressed, then the money problems and failures came up as they always do. The capability needs don't justify the failures of the program, but they need to be taken into consideration when there's talk of changing or canceling the program.

    Everyone has a different concern. Congressmen are probably concerned about money staying in their state to stay elected. The Pentagon is worried about capability and not being embarrassed over a big failure. The tax payers are worried about not wasting money and some of them about keeping an F-35 job. It's a complicated issue with lots of caveats.

    • Re:Capabilities (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Shoten (260439) on Wednesday July 09, 2014 @06:24PM (#47420093)

      This article doesn't mention the incredible upgrades of the F-35. It has incredible situational awareness (SA), highly networked to acquire SA from all sources, sensors onboard to provide SA, smaller that the F-22, more stealthy, and a range of other characteristics that the pentagon desires (wiki [wikipedia.org]). Those capabilities are the top reason for the F-35 to exist at all. As development has progressed, then the money problems and failures came up as they always do. The capability needs don't justify the failures of the program, but they need to be taken into consideration when there's talk of changing or canceling the program.

      Everyone has a different concern. Congressmen are probably concerned about money staying in their state to stay elected. The Pentagon is worried about capability and not being embarrassed over a big failure. The tax payers are worried about not wasting money and some of them about keeping an F-35 job. It's a complicated issue with lots of caveats.

      Ah, excellent points. If only we'd have had these planes in Iraq and Afghanistan, we'd have...oh, wait a minute. NOTHING WOULD HAVE CHANGED.

      Our weak points do not hinge on air superiority. The current aircraft with our current pilots are demonstrably far and above better than anyone else on the planet. Yes, we do need to plan ahead...but is a radical new level of sophistication important and/or useful? Consider that no other nation on the planet retains even the ability to project power over distance from their home country, absent an ally where they can stage aircraft. The Russians have one aircraft carrier (the Kuznetsov) which is a steaming pile of shit that's only ever been out 4 times, and never far from home. It lacks catapults, so as a result aircraft that fly from it must go light on both munitions and fuel. It suffers from massive problems with its power plant, and is unreliable. The Chinese have a carrier too...but no ships to support it. Oh, and it's a carbon copy of the Kuznetsov and heads have rolled among the people who managed the purchase of it from the Russians. So it's shit too.

      Meanwhile, Congress is doing all they can to axe...the A-10. The A-10 Warthog has killed more tanks than any other weapon in our arsenal, not to mention how many soldiers it's saved via close air support missions. It's universally loved among the pilots who fly it and the troops who have been protected by it, it's tried and true, and it's cheap as hell. Simple, rugged, incredibly durable even when shot to bits and indescribably lethal to ground targets, it's a much better indication of the kind of aircraft role that will be central to future conflicts we face.

      So yeah...the F-35 has all sorts of whiz-bang cool stuff, stuff that we don't need, while being unreliable, insanely wasteful of money, and the wrong place for our primary focus to go for the future of war.

      • Not to mention the TERROR is instills in the enemy. Every human has that has ever heard the GAU-8 open fire knows what death sounds like. A true warcry of metal fury.
      • by neonv (803374)

        The aim of the F-35 is a possible war with modern countries, not Afghanistan (since we have superiority in Afghanistan, most any aircraft would do). This includes not only where their technology currently is, but where we know they are going. The Chinese and Russians have some incredible defenses, and there's a constant back and forth of advancing weapons and defenses to counter those weapons. This happens whether you're aware of it or not, and most people have no idea what's out there in terms of weapon

    • by TubeSteak (669689)

      As development has progressed,

      Well that's the problem with your whole premise.
      You do development before you build the plane.

      The F-35 has turned into a white elephant specifically because of its backwards R&D/procurement process.

    • by norite (552330)

      More stealthy? Nah, using WWII era radar, these so-called stealth planes light up like a Christmas tree. Plus they cannot fly in rain, because the radar absorbing paint, er, washes off...

  • by the eric conspiracy (20178) on Wednesday July 09, 2014 @06:09PM (#47419933)

    The F-35 is a classic example of what is wrong with the military-industrial-political complex.

    It's bloated. To an extreme nearly unimaginable. Layer on layer of bureaucracy and self interest slathered immeasurably deep. It's not possible for this to be efficient or effective.

    The problem is NOT the concept of the plane or its implementation. Nor is it with the inevitable startup issues. Any design no matter how brilliantly conceived would have similar problems when constructed by the set of institutions that are in play here.

    What I am afraid is that the only thing that will change this is a real existential threat to the United States. Only then will we see focus on what is really important. The sort of focus that led the United States to an economic output greater than the rest of world combined during WWII.

  • by JoeyRox (2711699) on Wednesday July 09, 2014 @06:12PM (#47419965)
    Much more cost effective, especially since they don't need to be designed to support the limitations of human pilots (like g-force limits). And with a much lower cost we can build a lot more of them.
  • The article's summary seems to imply that US taxpayers are on the hook for $1 trillion. That's not quite right:

    "But the armed services are not the only customers. Eight international partners have signed on to help build and buy the planes: the U.K., Italy, the Netherlands, Turkey, Canada, Australia, Denmark, and Norway. While not involved in the development of the plane, Israel and Japan are buying it through the foreign military sales process, and South Korea recently indicated that it would buy at least

    • by AHuxley (892839)
      " international sales will offset at least some of the expense both directly and indirectly." are usually subsidized by the US tax payer as a thank you for shared sites, sites for the NSA, joint training and systems integration. Dont forget the shareholders have to be looked after too.
      International buyers will offset their own domestic budgets by supporting the emerging USA systems and request big US discounts over years.
      They can always hint at pondering other aircraft next time.
  • We've bullied/bribed/... the Canadians into buying them.

    How bad can they be?

  • So basically congress is ok with a wellfare program that brings money into their districts, even if the projects are a complete waste.
    • by rahvin112 (446269)

      Congress is OK with corporate welfare. It's those god damned poor people that shouldn't be getting anything.

  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Wednesday July 09, 2014 @06:34PM (#47420193) Journal
    When these politicians give tax payer money to private companies to create "jobs" the tax payers get such a raw deal.

    If we just put the trillion in the bank at 4% interest rate, you would get 40 billion dollars a year, It could pay 1 million people 40K a year. None of these projects ever create even a large fraction of a million jobs. Even if it uses the money to hire half million people to dig a trench and the other half to close it up it would provide greater economic impact to the economy than such boondongles.

  • Ah yes more F-35 hate.

    Claim the costs are increasing, except the price per plane is decreasing. Check.

    Faux outrage at the $1 trillion price tag that has been part of the plan for decades and pays for R&D for 3 new fighters, a purchase order for ~2,500 aircraft, plus maintenance and training for 55 years. Check.

    Complain that it has a part built in every state, just like every other military project in the last 50 years. Check.

    Unfortunately the authors forgot to mention how important dog fighting is to a
    • by Exitar (809068)

      Sorry, but with all the F-35 problems, your comment just seem astroturfing to me.

  • Having all the branches use the same plane should have been a cost saver. Only develop one plane, same parts, same training, etc. Except the different branches need different planes for different jobs. So we're going to take one plane and then alter it into a few different models.

    I used to design fire engines. I learned a lot of really good lessons about designs and specifications. You have to define the roles for your machine. If it is going to do more than one task, which task is more important?
  • It is sometimes said by people who support gun rights that we need them in the event it ever becomes necessary to overthrow the government. That's what the right was established for, after all.

    "That's ridiculous," opponents say. "You can't fight the federal government! They can just fly right over you and destroy your whole army with half a thought."

    Leaving aside that guerrilla warfare works just fine against them everywhere else in the world, we can now say "no, they can't." They are too busy having ou
  • If there's one thing the big Obamacare debates on Slashdot taught me, it's that the government CAN be trusted to faithfully and competently handle giant, complex projects. The government exists outside your petty notions of supply and demand. I am sure -- SURE -- that these problems must be imaginary.

    lllll AJ

  • by 18_Rabbit (663482) on Wednesday July 09, 2014 @09:05PM (#47421167)
    Or, don't work well. Does nobody remember the lessons of the infamous F-111? It was going to replace fighters, attack planes, light bombers, nuclear strike bombers, for both the Air Force and the Navy. The plane went WAY over budget, and in the end, the the F-111 turned out to be a pretty good light attack/recon aircraft, but not much else. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/F... [wikipedia.org] Instead of a plane that's excellent at say, dogfighting, you get one that is mediocre at dogfighting. And VTOL/STOL. And attack. It's like using a leatherman when you could be using actual tools.
  • "It counts 1,300 suppliers in 45 states supporting 133,000 jobs"

    Assuming the low end ($399 Billion) that puts the cost at $3 Million per job...... If "jobs" are the focus someone needs to have their eyes checked. I also got a kick out of this one “"The jet has flown to every corner of the envelope and it’s meeting or exceeding expectations in performance,” Siebert said". Last I heard the VTOL version cracks its frame. Aircraft Carrier version can't catch the arresting wire, the stealth

  • by pbjones (315127) on Thursday July 10, 2014 @04:03AM (#47422687)

    US gets the F-22, the rest may get the F-35, which one is better? not the F-35. It's a project to have the rest of the world pay for aircraft development.

Whenever a system becomes completely defined, some damn fool discovers something which either abolishes the system or expands it beyond recognition.

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