By Sam Loose | USA
Throughout U.S. Military history, the taxpayer has been expected to fund projects, some a hefty price, some not, but not one comes even close to the $1.58 trillion dollar mistake that is the F-35 program.
Lockheed Martin, when competing to become the replacement to aging aircraft in the American Armed Forces and several NATO air forces, did not sell a plane, but instead sold a concept. At the time these nations awarded their contracts to Lockheed Martin, the F-35 had not even flown, and would not for a few years. As this happened, other manufacturers were offering proven designs, calling into question the ethicality of the competition.
Purchasing these “paper planes” left a stain on the program, both limiting the potential of the aircraft itself, and plaguing its history with cost overruns and delays. Choosing the F-35 meant that procurement of the aircraft would begin while it was still early in its flaw ridden design, meaning that whenever a change was made, the entire fleet would have to undergo the changes. Consequently, this was significantly more expensive than constructing a finished design.
The increasingly demanding price has damaged sales, such as in Canada, who in 2016 announced that they would cancel their F-35 order and would instead purchase a fleet of Boeing F/A-18 E/F Super Hornets. A similar fear was also expressed by President Donald J. Trump who stated via twitter that his intention was to work with Boeing to replace a portion of the Navy’s F-35C order with the F/A-18 Super Hornet. Unlike the F-35, the F/A-18 boasts the title of the cheapest combat role aircraft to operate in the U.S. fleet, Costing only $10,507 an hour to operate compared to the $28,455 it costs to operate an F-35 for an hour. The F/A-18 also has a perfect history of not a single plane being delivered late or over budget.
But it’s not just the development of the Joint Strike Fighter that has had a massive burden placed on the taxpayer. Eleven years after its first flight, with over 200 aircraft manufactured, the F-35A’s (the variant most ordered) price tag finally fell below $100 Million with the lot 10, at a whopping price of $94.6 Million a piece. The F-35 B/C models price tag still hovers well above $100 million. These prices should drop when the F-35 exits low rate initial production and transitions into full scale production in 2018, however the price is only expected to fall to about $85 million dollars, twice that of almost any other modern fighter, given that there are no delays or overruns, which is unlikely at best.
Lockheed Martin boasts that the F-35 will have beneficial effects on the economy, creating jobs and stimulating trade. While this is true, job creation is not unique to the F-35. What is really unique is its price tag, creating more debt, which of course has negative effects on the economy.
The F-35 is a monument to the military industrial complex and the cronyism that exists in the American Government and Lockheed Martin. Seeing as that Lockheed Martin is purely a defense company it seems logical that they would use cronyism to their advantage. As a matter of fact, they did in the 2016, donating hundreds of millions of dollars to Hillary Clinton’s Campaign, a candidate who firmly believed in enacting a no fly zone over Syria, which by all measures would have lead to an aerial war.
The F-35 does have some great qualities to it, but they are cancelled out by the poor management and faults in the program. It is a mistake we need to learn from.