via National Interest.
The Senate’s push to break up the monolithic JSF organization reflects poorly on Lockheed Martin, the prime contractor on the $400-billion program. Lockheed sold the F-35 as a “universal” stealth warplane whose different models would be highly compatible in order to simplify production, maintenance and training — and to drive down cost.My guess?
Of course, as the F-35A, F-35B and F-35C have evolved and Lockheed and the government have struggled to solve deeply-ingrained conceptual and design flaws within the program, the three models have grown in separate directions.
The multi-role F-35A is the lightest and most maneuverable of the three versions — and, at around $150 million per copy as of 2014, the — ahem — “cheapest.” Granted, that price tag is trending downward as order volume increases and Lockheed’s workers gain experience.
The $250-million, attack-optimized F-35B includes a secondary, downward-blasting engine for short and vertical takeoffs and landings — a feature that the Marines demanded and which has added significantly to the plane’s weight, complexity and cost.
The Navy’s F-35C — which the sailing branch primarily touts as a stealthy sensor-platform — possesses a bigger wing to allow for low-speed carrier landings and suffers from greater drag than the F-35A does. It cost a staggering $330 million per jet in 2014.
When the government awarded Lockheed the JSF contract back in 2001, it handed the Maryland-based plane-maker the keys to the main fighter recapitalization efforts for all three U.S. military branches that operate fast jets.
If the military and lawmakers had recognized then what they admit now — that the JSF is three different planes — the government could have awarded three separate contracts to potentially three different contractors, thus preventing the current fighter monopoly and encouraging diversity and competition within the U.S. aerospace industry.
Once they separate the babies its easier to make cuts to the program. I expect Lockheed Martin, the Pentagon and especially the Marine Corps to fight this. Additionally I further expect a move to push for even earlier buys.
The heat is on. Everyone has finally agreed that the plane is a failure. The only thing left is to decide on how to get from under it. Even the good news is falling flat. This was suppose to be the year of F-35 propaganda. The news from the air show circuit isn't glowing, the buy from the Dutch is being examined under a microscope and the best that the Brits can do is to try and link today's squadron with heroics from their WW2 predecessors.
Things are bad in F-35 land and I couldn't be happier.