Is The F-35 Being Kept Alive Just to Fleece The Foreign Buyers? (excerpt)
(Source: Wentworth Report; posted Oct 16, 2016)
by David Archibald
The signs are pointing to the F-35 program being kept going just to fleece
the foreign buyers, by getting them to commit to a block buy and then the US
will abandon the program. Consider these words from this article from
Will the Air Force buy its full complement? Harrison was skeptical.
“I don’t think it’s plausible that we’ll actually buy that full amount in
the long run, but they don’t need to change their plans right now, they don’t
need to scare the foreign partners by signaling that right now, it wouldn’t
make sense to do it now,” he says. “You don’t have to make that decision on
the total quantity, you don’t even have to make the decision on the
full-rate production, until four or five years from now. So you can wait
four or five years, more of the foreign partners will get deeply invested in
the program, and then they can scare them.”
In this article General Bogdan, who is in charge of the F-35 program, says
that the US won’t participate in a block buy until the Lot 13 production
run — which is scheduled to start in 2019, but foreign buyers are welcome to
be part of a block buy in Lot 12. The program is currently in Lot 9
production, though pricing for this lot between Lockheed Martin and the
Department of Defense has yet to be settled on.
Taken at face value, this means that foreign buyers would be getting their
aircraft cheaper than the Department of Defense from the same production
run. If the Department of Defense was in the F-35 program forever, why would
they let that situation come about unless they were maintaining the option
of walking away from the F-35 at any time?
Then consider these words from the US Air Force Air Superiority 2030 Flight
Failure to adopt agile acquisition approaches is not an option. The
traditional approach guarantees adversary cycles will outpace U.S.
development, resulting in “late-to-need” delivery of critical warfighting
capabilities and technologically superior adversary forces …
Additionally, the Air Force must reject thinking focused on “next
generation” platforms. Such focus often creates a desire to push technology
limits within the confines of a formal program. Such efforts should be
accomplished within the S&T portfolio and proven through effective
prototyping, harvesting when mature to a sufficient level for transition.
Pushing those limits in a formal program increases risk to unacceptable
levels, resulting in cost growth and schedule slips. This put such programs
at risk of cancellation due to their nearly inevitable underperformance, and
results in delivery of capabilities “late to need” by years or even decades.
That describes the US Air Force’s experience with the F-35. The words “risk
of cancellation” are predictive. But when will it be cancelled?
Damage is accumulating every day the F-35 program continues. The defense
establishment has woken up to the shortcomings of the F-35, and expressed an
interest in restarting F-22 production. The National Defense Authorization
Act for 2017 directs the Department of Defense to report on F-22 restart
costs in early 2017. What might kill the F-35 sooner is hard data, which
Lockheed Martin has been careful to avoid providing.
Lockheed Martin were given charge of evaluating their own product in a
Verification Simulator, which is supposed to provide multiple
ultra-realistic, thoroughly test-validated pilot cockpit simulators
operating together to enable operational testing of multi-ship tactical
scenarios with large numbers of advanced threats. To quote a POGO report on
the failings of the F-35:
It’s the only way to test many of the F-35’s capabilities because the test
ranges cannot realistically replicate the full spectrum and quantity of
targets and threats the F-35 combat formations would confront.
Beginning in 2001 Lockheed Martin engineers were under contract to create
this complex simulator facility, but the project had fallen so far behind
that DOT&E (Director Operational Test & Evaluation) questioned whether it
would be ready in time for operational testing.
Rather than reinvigorating that project, the JPO (F-35 Joint Program Office)
moved the entire simulator development to a Navy lab. That lab is now in the
throes of trying to take over this monumental design, fabrication, and
verification testing task.
According to the memorandum by the Director Operational Test & Evaluation,
the Verification Simulator will not be ready for the currently planned IOT&E
start date in 2018 — and perhaps not until two or more years later. That is
after the planned start of full rate production in 2019. (end of excerpt)
Click here for the full story, on the Wentworth Report website.