Thursday, September 1, 2011

“All-In” on F-35:

There’s an interesting post by my colleague Phil Ewing over at our sister site DoDBuzz on what a lot of us have been saying for a while now about the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter: The plane pretty much has to work because, at this point, it’s the only thing going. Especially for the the U.S. Air Force, who has famously gone, “all-in” on fifth generation fighters. Or more accurately, the F-35.

For a while, the service fought hard to buy as many F-22 Raptors as possible. That fight all but ended when former Defense Secretary Robert Gates fired Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Michael Moseley. After that, the Air Force put up and shut up when Gates said he was capping Raptor buys at 187 jets.

A few generals in the Air National Guard expressed interest in buying heavily updated fourth-gen fighters like Boeing’s F-15SE Silent Eagle as a bridge between the rapidly aging fighter force of F-16s and F-15s and the trouble-plauged F-35. While that idea was also picked up by some lawmakers (including ANG-champion, Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords), the Pentagon and Air Force brass were largely able to silence that idea. All attention was to be focused on equipping the service with 1,763 F-35As.

In a time of hefty budget cuts, the Air Force remains focused on getting the F-35s to its fleet. There may simply be too much institutional inertia to cancel the program, keep the soon-to-close Raptor production line open (and reopen lines for sensitive long-lead parts) and/or start buying hundreds of modified “legacy” (ugh) designs like the Silent Eagle, Boeing’s stealthier F/A-18EF Super Hornet or Block 60 F-16s to offset delays with the F-35 or serve as a bridge to sixth-gen fighters.

(The Marines are pretty much all-in on F-35, too. As for the Navy, they say they are dedicated to the JSF but some doubt this…)

Here’s Phil’s post.

Readers, what do you think: Can good program management right the good ship S.S. F-35?

If costs are brought under control will the JSF be able to boost our warfighting ability significantly and serve as a knowledge base for the development of sixth-gen fighters?

from Defense Tech

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