The F-35 is indeed our fighter of the future
posted at 12:04 pm on July 12, 2012 by Bruce McQuain
Yesterday I had the opportunity to visit the Lockheen Martin Flight Demonstration Center in Crystal City near Washington DC and be updated on the progress of the Joint Strike Fighter.
The briefing was very well done and speared some of the criticisms that have been heard concerning the advanced 5th generation fighter.
Trillion dollar airplane.
It has almost become a cliche, with people who have no concept of what it means, throwing this around as a negative. Yes, a trillion plus dollars is a lot of money, make no mistake about it. But some of the facts behind its use, but routinely ignored, are pretty important.
1. The F-35 is going to replace every fighter aircraft in 3 services, an unprededented occurrance.
2. The “trillion dollar” figure covers every single possible cost for those aircraft over a 55 year span. That is also unprecedented. DoD has never done that for any other program in its history.
3. The cost figure is done in “then year” dollars. What that means is they are making assumptions about inflation, the cost of fuel, any number of vairables 55 years out. That’s most likely not a very accurate number.
4. Even if it is, when using the same assumptions with the same variables and applying it to the jet fighters we have now (with the assumption we’ll dump the F-35 and keep them) the cost is 4 times higher. Yes, that’s right, if we keep what we have and continue to upgrade and use them, the comparative cost would be 4 times higher using the same model.
Not something we need, because all our future wars will be like Afghanistan.
We seriously do a lousy job of figuring out what our next war will be like. For instance, if you look at global hot spots, you’d have to put Iran right up there at the top. We keep creeping military assets closer and closer to that country. But obviously, should we engage Iran, it would be nothing like Afghanistan. For one thing, airspace would be hotly contested. And an F-35 would be extremely useful in an Iranian scenario, much more so than our current fighters because of the F-35’s stealth capabilities which allow it to operate much more freely in heavily defended airspace.
Along with Iran, we know that China and Russia are pursuing 5th generation stealth fighters with a vengence. Russia has the T-50, China has shown the J-20 and it appears China may have another entry into the field, the F-60.
The point, of course, is we’ve grown accustomed to controling or dominating any airspace we fight in. That may or may not be a given in the future. And where airspace is contested, survivability is the key. Which brings us to another criticism
The F-35 isn’t as good as the competiton.
Well actually it is. In fact, it it likely much better. And it is far better than any of the current generation of fighters around the world.
The Pentagon estimates the J-20 will be operational by 2018, but Aboulafia isn’t impressed.
“It looked like a textbook example of how you shouldn’t design a stealth airplane,” he said.
He says the Dragon is “absurd” because it’s oversized and has large, obvious fins behind the cockpit.
But will either jet be comparable to the jack-of-all-trades F-35?
“I don’t think either aircraft can really compete with the F-35,” said Dr. Richard Bitzinger, defence specialist at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.
He says neither the Russian nor the Chinese stealth jet will have sensors as advanced as the F-35 or have the jet’s ability to collect and use tactical data from satellites or allied planes.
The point about the sensors is critical. The sensor array, networking capability and sensor fusion that takes place in the F-35 is second to none. It is even more powerful and effective than that found in the F-22.
All in all, what I saw yesterday at the Lockheed Martin demonstration center was the latest example of American ingenuity and cutting edge technology fused toward making one of the most powerful fighter aircraft in the world. Flight testing is going very well and is ahead of schedule.
Will it cost us a good bit of money. Yes, but the alternative is worse and, by the way, don’t those we plan on putting in harm’s way both in the air and on the ground deserve the best?
If so, the F-35 is the answer and we owe it to our military to put them in the best possible equipment to ensure their survivability and those who they fly to support.