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The US Air Force could be biggest obstacle to F-35’s success

Forbes’ Loren Thompson suggests that the US Air Force planner daydreams may be what does the most damage to the F-35 program.

Seraphim Hanisch

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The F-35 Lightning II (a.k.a. Joint Strike Fighter) has been in development and deployment for about 26 years now.

For the sake of comparison, the F-16 Fighting Falcon, one of the fighters the F-35 is slated to replace, took from 1971 to 1976 to go from conceptualization to production.

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The newer fighter has been the subject of much criticism for many reasons, including extreme budget overruns, delays in production, reports that up to half the planes on any given flight line are non-functional, and that they suffer in terms of speed, range and combat ability to older designs from the US, Russia, and China.

Nevertheless, the program has been slogging forward, and since 2016, operational squadrons of the aircraft are serving the military forces in the USA and Israel, as well.

In fact, the fighter’s first known combat operations were those carried out by the Israeli Air Force in a May 10, 2018 airstrike against Iranian elite forces operating in the Golan Heights region of southern Syria. To date, over 305 have been completely built.

By many accounts, the plane is actually being described as superb, “a dream to fly”, and many of the earlier problems with production are solved and so output rate of the aircraft is on the upswing. Forbes reports that the aircraft is looking like a success. It comes in three “flavors”, each tailored for the military branches (Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps) it will serve. It is also available to the allied nations of the United States, and it is of interest to many of them.

Nevertheless, Forbes’ writer Loren Thompson reports that the plane may well be a victim of its own design process, at least where the Air Force is concerned. If true, this is a problem (emphasis added):

Nobody needs the F-35 more than the Air Force, which today is operating the oldest combat fleet in its history. Most of the fighters in that fleet were designed long before words like “stealthy” or “digital” became commonplace in military parlance. With U.S. strategy shifting to an emphasis on great-power competition, the ability of these legacy aircraft to survive in airspace near Russia and China is increasingly being questioned. You needn’t take my word for that since I have business ties of one sort or another to several companies working on the program; just check out the various forecasts available at www.af.mil.

The F-35 is the only fighter currently in production that can cope with the emerging warfighting environment. It is invisible to radar. It collects and shares information across vast expanses of the electromagnetic spectrum. It generates ten times as much radiated power for jamming or deceiving enemies as legacy aircraft. And after the most complex flight test program in history, the Air Force knows that all of its key features actually work. So the service is planning to buy F-35s at the rate of about one per week for many years to come.

At that rate, though, it will take decades to recapitalize a fleet that is already on its last legs. Which brings me to an unsettling reality. Because the Air Force version accounts for 72% of the joint buy, and because its “A” variant is the one that most allies want, investment choices that Air Force leaders make over the next dozen or so years will decide whether the F-35 achieves the role originally envisioned for it in revitalizing U.S. air power. If the Air Force scales back its current plan to buy 1,763 F-35s, that will have profoundly negative consequences for other military services, allies and overall U.S. security.
Mr. Thompson goes on to explain the reason for this: the inception of this fighter as a “tri-service program with extensive allied involvement.”
The thought was that multiple participants would share development costs for a big production run of relatively inexpensive planes – less expensive, the theory went, than if each contractor or nation or service developed their own hardware.
While the idea seemed great, its implementation turned out to be amazingly lengthy in terms of time to production, and it featured enormous cost overruns.
The F-16 Fighting Falcon cost US$ 18.8 million per plane in 1998. The F-35 cost per plane ranges from $94.3 million for the A variant the Air Force is getting, to $122.4 million for the B version which is Short Takeoff or Vertical Landing (STOVL) capable. The present hope is to drive the cost per plane below the $85 million threshold by 2019. Still, this is an extremely expensive aircraft. However, if the US Air Force cuts its order, the price per plane will increase.
Oddly enough, the practical future for the plane is seen positively by Mr. Thompson, but he points out what he believes to be a flaw in the mindset of the Air Force itself:

Evidence is beginning to accumulate that the Air Force is not as focused on seeing the F-35 succeed as previously thought. For example, it is not ramping up production of its version at the rate that would deliver the greatest economies, and it is warning that if costs to keep the plane flying are not reduced, it may have to shrink its buy by hundreds of planes. The rationales for these moves are shaky at best, based on muddled thinking and outdated information that ignores key features of the F-35 bargain proposition.

For example, the notion that F-35 is expensive to operate ignores the fact that it will become much less expensive as it matures; ignores the fact that the latest F-35s are already the highest performing aircraft in the Air Force inventory; ignores the fact that the plane is delivering far better reliability than specified by requirements documents; and ignores the fact that its productivity on combat missions will exceed the performance of legacy aircraft by hundreds of percent.

That doesn’t mean that operating costs can’t be reduced faster and deeper than planned, but it does raise the question of why the Air Force is not thinking in more rigorous terms about the plane described in its annual acquisition report as “the centerpiece of our future fighter precision attack capability.” I suspect I know the answer to that question, because I saw a similar breakdown of analysis occur in the Army during the last decade. To put it simply, the Air Force has become too enamored with big ideas about the future to think clearly about the present.

The biggest idea captivating Air Force leaders is that “near peer” adversaries, meaning Russia and China, are catching up with U.S. warfighting technology and may soon surpass it. The service stated in its Air Superiority 2030 Flight Plan that “the Air Force’s projected force structure in 2030 is not capable of fighting and winning” against the “array of potential adversary capabilities” it will likely face. You might infer therefrom that the service needs to buy stealthy, networked F-35s faster, but its flight plan highlights other items.

For instance it wants a “penetrating counterair” capability — maybe a plane, maybe a family of systems — that can operate within Russian and Chinese air space circa 2030. That would enable it to protect the Air Force’s next-generation bomber in attacks on the most densely-defended targets, or conduct search-and-destroy missions against time-sensitive targets. Obviously, this would require greater endurance than traditional fighters. It also wants unmanned strike and reconnaissance aircraft that can survive in contested airspace, perhaps directed by pilots in penetrating planes.

In addition, it wants all of its warfighting assets linked by a robust network so that each operator can benefit from the reconnaissance and kill capabilities of all the others, and any attrition of assets can be covered via redundancy in the system. And these assets would not be confined to air-breathing platforms — the network would stretch across multiple warfighting “domains,” including space and the electromagnetic spectrum. Electronic and cyber warfare would be ubiquitous in the high-end battlespace it envisions.

Meanwhile, at the low end of counter-terror and counter-insurgency operations, the service wants to acquire planes less costly than the F-35, perhaps turboprops rather than jets, that can deal with enemies who lack their own air forces or air defenses. So F-35 potentially ends up in a squeeze play between the lower-cost systems envisioned for addressing irregular threats and the higher-capability systems needed to address future near-peer competitors. Add in all the other stuff needed for space resilience, mobility, training and so on, and the F-35 program of record starts to look shaky.

Mr. Thompson’s analysis, therefore notes that the F-35 may well be an extremely fine aircraft, and he even notes the program as a success in spite of its own cumbersome nature. But here he expresses the greatest criticism to be towards the thinkers of America’s airborne fighting forces spending too much time in dreamland, and not enough time rooted in practicality:

There’s nothing wrong with planning for the future. It’s an essential facet of military preparedness. But the Air Force needs to be realistic about how frequently past forecasts have proven wrong, and how tight budget resources will likely be in the next decade. There probably will never be a penetrating counterair system due to changing technological, geopolitical and fiscal circumstances. There may not even be a next-generation bomber. The one option the service can count on is that there definitely will be an F-35.

The question is whether the Air Force will make the most of that option, and in the process enable its sister services and America’s allies to do likewise.

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JPHChe Sernageofftibetan cowboyGer Recent comment authors
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JPH
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JPH

Forbes’ pipe dream.

Comments are superfluous after reading this:

http://www.pogo.org/straus/issues/weapons/2018/f-35-still-no-finish-line-in-sight.html

Che Serna
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Che Serna

Nothing feels me with more than US pilots being killed by their enemies!
When this lemon actually sees combat…My dream will be realised in droves…Bravo!

geoff
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geoff

The F35 will be a welcome addition to combat Palestinian slingshots and aggressive balloons !!

tibetan cowboy
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tibetan cowboy

The Pentagon, congress, Sanders and the MIC have insured the defeat of the USA in a conventional war with either Russia or China due to the uselessness of the F-35 in combat. It is no adversary against any fighter plane in those countries. This is due to the massive corruption in the Pentagon and congress who support a machine designed to defeat the USA and no other countries just to get their pay-offs. Bernie supports it because Vermont is involved with its production and insures well-paying jobs. So Bernie sold out like most of congress for more money. Read this… Read more »

Ger
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Ger

So. The Israelis, in a standoff sneak attack, have proven the ‘combat’ readiness of the F-35. Escorted by a fleet of F-15 fighter planes to protect the one F-35 …..?.

Shahna
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Yoh! Archangel!
Can it fly for more than 30 minutes without refueling yet?

RB
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This is all news to me. What I’ve read about the “politically engineered” F-35 is that it’s an extremely pricey lemon. I’ll have to let others confirm that all of the F-35’s deficiencies have been overcome.

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Beijing Threatens “Severe” Retaliation Against Canada If Huawei CFO Is Not Released

China’s warning marks an escalation in Beijing’s rhetoric as investors worry that the arrest could cause the shaky trade detente between the US and China to devolve into acrimony.

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Via Zerohedge


Canada’s extraordinary arrest one week ago of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou, the daughter of Huawei founder and billionaire executive Ren Zhengfei, and its decision to charge her with “multiple” counts of fraud – a preamble to her likely extradition to the US to face charges of knowingly violating US and EU sanctions on Iran – has elicited widespread anger in Beijing, which declared Meng’s detention a “violation of human rights” during a bail hearing for the jailed executive on Friday.

That anger has apparently only intensified after the hearing adjourned without a decision (it will resume on Monday, allowing Meng’s defense team to argue for why she should be released on bail, contrary to the wishes of government attorneys who are prosecuting the case).

And with Canada insisting that it will prosecute Meng to the full extent of the law over allegations that she mislead banks about the true relationship of a Huawei subsidiary called Skycom, angry Chinese officials have decided to issue an ultimatum directly to the Canadian ambassador, who was summoned to a meeting in Beijing on Saturday and told in no uncertain terms that Canada will face “severe consequences” if Meng isn’t released, according to the Wall Street Journal.

China’s foreign ministry publicized the warning in a statement (though Canadian officials have yet to comment):

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng summoned Canada’s ambassador to Beijing, John McCallum, on Saturday to deliver the warning, according to a statement from the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

The statement doesn’t mention the name of Huawei’s chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou, though it refers to a Huawei “principal” taken into custody at U.S. request while changing planes in Vancouver, as was Ms. Meng. The statement accuses Canada of “severely violating the legal, legitimate rights of a Chinese citizen” and demands the person’s release.

“Otherwise there will be severe consequences, and Canada must bear the full responsibility,” said the statement, which was posted online late Saturday.

Phone calls to the Canadian Embassy rang unanswered while the Canadian government’s global affairs media office didn’t immediately respond to an email request for comment.

The warning marks an escalation in Beijing’s rhetoric as investors worry that the arrest could cause the shaky trade detente between the US and China to devolve into acrimony. A federal judge issued a warrant for Meng’s arrest back in August. Though after she was made aware of the warrant, Meng avoided travel to the US. She was arrested in Vancouver last Saturday while traveling to Mexico.

Aside from breaking off trade talks, some are worried that Beijing could seek to retaliate in kind by arresting a notable US executive. While the threats of Chinese bureaucrats might not amount to much in the eyes of US prosecutors, threatening a US executive with long-term detention in a Chinese “reeducation camp” just might.

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The trials of Julian Assange

Eresh Omar Jamal interviews Italian journalist Stefania Maurizi in relation to the situation of Julian Assange.

The Duran

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Authored by Eresh Omar Jamal for The Daily Star (Bangladesh):


Stefania Maurizi is an investigative journalist working for the Italian daily La Repubblica. She has worked on all WikiLeaks releases of secret documents and partnered with Glenn Greenwald to reveal the Snowden Files about Italy. She has authored two books—Dossier WikiLeaks: Segreti Italiani and Una Bomba, Dieci Storie. In an exclusive interview with Eresh Omar Jamal of The Daily Star, Maurizi talks about the continued arbitrary detention of Julian Assange, why powerful governments see WikiLeaks as an existential threat, and the implications for global press freedom if Assange is prosecuted for publishing secret government documents.

You recently had the chance to visit Julian Assange at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. When was this and can you describe the state he is in?

I was able to visit him on November 19, after 8 months of failed attempts, because last March the Ecuadorian authorities cut off all his social and professional contacts, with the exception of his lawyers, and in the preceding 8 months, I had asked for permission to visit him nine times without success—the Ecuadorian authorities didn’t reply at all to my requests.

When I was finally granted permission to visit the WikiLeaks founder at the Ecuadorian embassy in London last November, I was literally shocked to see the huge impact his isolation has had on his health. Because I have worked as a media partner with him and his organisation, WikiLeaks, for the last nine years, I have met him many times and can tell when there are any changes in his body and mind. I wondered how his mind could keep working; but after talking to him in the embassy for two hours, I have no doubt that his mind is working fine. I still wonder how that’s possible after six and a half years of detention without even one hour of being outdoors. I would have had a physical and mental breakdown after just 6 months, not after 6 years.

Detention and isolation are killing him slowly, and no one is doing anything to stop it. The media reports, the commentators comment, but at the end of the day, he is still there; having spent the last six and a half years confined to a tiny building with no access to sunlight or to proper medical treatment. And this is happening in London, in the heart of Europe. He is not sitting in an embassy in Pyongyang. It is truly tragic and completely unacceptable. And I’m simply appalled at the way the UK authorities have contributed to his arbitrary detention, and have opposed any solution to this intractable legal and diplomatic quagmire.

Having bravely defended Assange for years, the Ecuadorian government in late March cut off almost all his communications with the outside world. What prompted this turnabout and what is its purpose?

Politics has completely changed in Ecuador, and more in general, in Latin America, since 2012, when Ecuador granted Julian Assange asylum. I have never had any interviews with the current Ecuadorian President, Mr Lenin Moreno, but based on his public declarations, it’s rather obvious to me that he does not approve of what Julian Assange and WikiLeaks do.

With all his problems, Rafael Correa (former president of Ecuador) protected Assange from the very beginning, whereas Lenin Moreno considers him a liability. Moreno is under pressure from the right-wing politicians in Ecuador, and also from very powerful governments, like the US and UK governments, who will leave no stones unturned to jail Assange and destroy WikiLeaks. I am not sure how long Lenin Moreno will hold out against this immense pressure, provided that he wants to hold out at all.

Assange was vindicated not so long ago as to why he cannot leave the embassy when the US Department of Justice “accidentally” revealed in November that the founder of WikiLeaks had been secretly charged in the US. What do you think those charges are for?

It’s hard to say unless the charges get declassified and I really appreciate how the US organisation, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, is fighting before the court in the Eastern District of Virginia, US, to have the charges declassified.

There is no doubt whatsoever that the US authorities have always wanted to charge him for WikiLeaks’ publications. They have wanted to do so from the very beginning, since 2010, when WikiLeaks released its bombshell publications like the US diplomatic cables.

But the US authorities have been unable to do so due to the fact that WikiLeaks’ publication activities enjoy constitutional protection thanks to the First Amendment. So it will be very interesting to see how they will get around this constitutional protection in order to be able to charge him and other WikiLeaks journalists and put them all in jail.

Why have some of the most powerful governments and intelligence agencies invested so much resources to attack Assange and WikiLeaks?

You have to realise what it meant for the US national security complex to witness the publication of 76,000 secret documents about the war in Afghanistan, and then another 390,000 secret reports about the war in Iraq; followed by 251,287 US diplomatic cables and 779 secret files on the Guantanamo detainees; and to watch WikiLeaks save Edward Snowden, while the US was trying everything it could do, to show the world that there is no way of exposing the NSA’s secrets and keep your head attached to your neck having done so.

You have to realise what this means in an environment like that of the US, where even the most brilliant national security reporters didn’t dare to publish the name of the head of the CIA Counterterrorism Center, Michael D’Andrea, even though his name and the abuses committed by his centre were open secrets within their inner circles. Although the New York Times finally did, later on. But this was and still is the reality in the US, and even though it may not be as bad in the UK, it’s still quite bad. Look at what happened with the arrest of Glenn Greenwald’s husband, David Miranda, at the Heathrow Airport during the publication of the Snowden Files. Look at what happened with The Guardian being forced to destroy its hard drives during the publication of those files.

There are different levels of power in our societies and generally in our western democracies, criticism against the low, medium and high levels of power via journalistic activities is tolerated. Journalists may get hit with libel cases, have troubles with their careers; however, exposing those levels is permitted. The problem is when journalists and media organisations touch the highest levels, the levels where states and intelligence agencies operate.

WikiLeaks is a media organisation that has published secret documents about these entities for years, and Julian Assange and his staff have done this consistently, not occasionally like all the other media organisations do. You can imagine the anger these powerful entities have towards WikiLeaks—they perceive WikiLeaks as an existential threat and they want to set an example that says, “Don’t you dare expose our secrets and crimes, because if you do, we will smash you.”

If Assange is prosecuted, what impact might it have on other publishers and journalists and on press freedom globally?

It will have a huge impact and that is why organisations like the American Civil Liberties Union are speaking out. Never before in the US has an editor and media organisation ended up in jail for publishing information in the public interest. If Julian Assange and the WikiLeaks’ staff end up in jail, it will be the first time in US history and will set a devastating precedent for attack on press freedom in the US, but actually, not only in the US. Because if a country like the US, in which the activities of the press enjoy constitutional protection, treats journalists this way, you can imagine how other countries where the press doesn’t enjoy such strong protection will react. It will send a clear message to them: “Your hands are free.”

At the end of the day, I think there are two sides to this Assange and WikiLeaks saga: the US-UK national security complex, but more in general, I would say, the people within the national security complex, who want to destroy Julian Assange and WikiLeaks to send a clear message to journalists: “Don’t mess with us if you don’t want your lives to be destroyed.” While on the other side, there are the freedom of the press guys, meaning journalists like me, who want to demonstrate the exact opposite: that we can expose power at the highest levels, we can expose the darkest corners of governments and come out alive and well. And actually, we must do this, because real power is invisible and hides in the darkest corners.

Eresh Omar Jamal is a journalist for The Daily Star (Bangladesh). You can find him on Twitter: @EreshOmarJamal and Stefania Maurizi: @SMaurizi

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Diplomacy a Waste of Time with Washington

Trump’s JCPOA pullout and threatened INF Treaty withdrawal show Washington can never be trusted.

The Duran

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Authored by Stephen Lendman:


The US is a serial lawbreaker, operating by its own rules, no others.

Time and again, it flagrantly breaches international treaties, Security Council resolutions, and other rule of law principles, including its own Constitution.

Diplomacy with Republicans and undemocratic Dems is an exercise in futility.

Trump’s JCPOA pullout and threatened INF Treaty withdrawal show Washington can never be trusted.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova’s proposed US outreach to discuss INF Treaty bilateral differences is well intended – despite knowing nothing is accomplished when talks with Washington are held, so why bother.

It’s just a matter of time before the US breaches another promise. They’re hollow when made. Kremlin good intentions aren’t enough to overcome US duplicity and implacable hostility toward Russia.

“We are ready to continue the dialogue in appropriate formats on the entire range of problems related to this document on the basis of professionalism and mutual respect, without putting forward unsubstantiated accusations and ultimatums. Our proposals are well known and remain on the negotiating table,” said Zakharova, adding:

“We have admitted (US) documents for further consideration. This text again includes accusations in the form of unfounded and unsubstantiated information about Russia’s alleged violations of this deal.

Comments to Washington like the above and similar remarks are like talking to a wall. The US demands all countries bend to its will, offering nothing in return but betrayal – especially in dealings with Russia, China, Iran, and other sovereign independent governments it seeks to replace with pro-Western puppet ones.

Not a shred of evidence suggests Russia violated its INF Treaty obligations. The accusation is baseless like all others against the Kremlin.

“No one has officially or by any other means handed over to Russia any files or facts, confirming that Russia breaches or does not comply with this deal,” Zakharova stressed, adding:

“We again confirm our consistent position that the INF Treaty is one of the key pillars of strategic stability and international security.”

It’s why the Trump regime intends abolishing it by pulling out. Strategic stability and international security defeat its agenda. Endless wars and chaos serve it.

The US, UK, France, Israel, and their imperial partners get away with repeated international law breaches because the EU, UN, and rest of the world community lack backbone enough to challenge them.

It’s how it is no matter how egregious their actions, notably their endless wars of aggression, supporting the world’s worst tinpot pot despots, and failing to back the rights of persecuted Palestinians and other long-suffering people.

The only language Republicans and Dems understand is toughness. Putin pretends a Russian/US partnership exists to his discredit – a show of weakness, not strength and responsible leadership.

In response to the Trump regime’s intention to withdraw from the INF Treaty, he said Russia will “react accordingly” – precisely what, he didn’t say.

A few suggestions, Mr. President.

  • Recall your ambassador to Washington. Expel the Trump regime’s envoy from Moscow and other key embassy personnel.
  • Arrest US spies in Russia you long ago identified. Imprison them until the US releases all Russian political prisoners. Agree to swap US detainees for all of them, no exceptions.
  • Install enough S-400 air defense systems to cover all Syrian airspace. Warn Washington, Britain, France and Israel that their aircraft, missiles and other aerial activities in its airspace will be destroyed in flight unless permission from Damascus is gotten – clearly not forthcoming.
  • Publicly and repeatedly accuse the above countries of supporting the scourge of ISIS and likeminded terrorists they pretend to oppose.
  • Warn them in no uncertain terms that their aggression against the Syrian Arab Republic no longer will be tolerated. Tell them the same goes if they dare attack Iran.
  • Stop pretending Mohammad bin Salman didn’t order Jamal Khashoggi’s murder, along with ignoring the kingdom’s horrendous human rights abuses domestically and abroad – including support for ISIS and other terrorists.
  • Put observance of rule of law principles and honor above dirty business as usual with the kingdom and other despotic regimes for profits.
  • Do the right things at all times and damn the short-term consequences – including toughness on Washington, the UK, Israel, and their imperial partners in high crimes of war and against humanity.

VISIT MY NEW WEB SITE: stephenlendman.org (Home – Stephen Lendman). Contact at [email protected].

My newest book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.”

www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html

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