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Lightning Doesn't Strike
The F-35 Can’t Use Its Bombs, Either

The news about the F-35’s inadequacies keeps rolling in. A month ago, we learned that software problems meant that the F-35 wouldn’t be able to fire its gun for the first few years it is in service. Now, it turns out it won’t be able to use a bomb critically useful for close air support (CAS) missions until 2022. reports:

F-35 Joint Strike Fighter pilots will have to wait until 2022 to fire the U.S. military’s top close-air-support bomb after the Small Diameter Bomb II enters service in 2017, JSF officials explained.

The Small Diameter Bomb II (SDB II) is an upgrade from previous precision-guided air-dropped weapons because of its ability to track and hit moving targets from up to 40 miles. However, the F-35 will not have the software package required to operate the bomb loaded onto the fifth generation fighter until 2022, officials said.

The U.S. military is the most expensive in the world, and it prides itself on providing the best for its soldiers in all situations. That’s why this development is especially disturbing: the ongoing budgeting fight has F-35 fans in Congress and the Pentagon trying to retire the beloved, proven A-10 “Warthog,” which is famous for its CAS prowess, in order to fund the F-35, which is not as adept. It gets worse, too. Recently it has come out that the F-35 partisans have been knowingly distorting the numbers to make the F-35 look better and the Warthog look worse in order to bolster the case for the former, a program already more expensive than any other in U.S. military procurement history.

It was never clear that the F-35 was going to be that good a plane in the first place—a RAND Corporation review famously concluded that the new plane “can’t turn, can’t climb, can’t run.” But with the software necessary for the weapons platform to actually use its most important weapons lagging years behind the deployment date, it seems our outmoded procurement policies have wound up trumping other concerns—including the effectiveness of our fighting force.

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  • Nevis07

    Build more F22’s to supplement other 4th gen to keep air superiority (retire F-15’s selectively), keep the Warthog’s and force the private corporations that screwed the taxpayers to take only as much payment as needed to keep them from going under. Stealth is overrated and quantity has a quality all of its own – I find it difficult to imagine that F-22’s can’t be upgraded with combat cloud capabilities. Use the freed up funds to shore up the submersible and floating Navy Fleet.

    • John Tyler

      A floating navy fleet, in today’s age of satellites , is a sitting duck for missile attacks, especially given that ship-killer missiles can be launched
      from 1000 miles away.
      If , say, 5 or 6 ship killer missiles are launched at a carrier such that they ALL reach their target at the same time AND approach from different directions, that carrier is a goner. All the missiles need do is damage the carrier sufficiently such that it is unable to launch / land planes. Your Task Force is now useless.

      The US Navy can deploy, what?? 5 to 10 carriers in a battle region?? Say, in and near the South China Sea. Do the math. 10 missiles aimed at each carrier; or even 20 missiles aimed at each carrier. The cost of a missile is a joke compared to the cost of a carrier. And satellites can provide real time location and targeting data; the carriers CANNOT hide .

      Satellite + missile technology will obsolete the carrier task force the way battleships rendered the fort obsolete, and the the way airplanes rendered the battleship obsolete, and the way drone technology will obsolete pilots.

      By the way, how would a carrier defend against a simultaneous attack of 20, 30, 50 drones???

  • Andrew Allison

    There’s absolutely no reason to increase, and every reason to decrease, the DoD budget as long as this boondoggle. The F-35 is a poster child for everything that is wrong with DoD planning and procurement.

  • Fat_Man

    Step 1. Cancel the F-35 Project.
    Step 2. Fire every officer involved in the project, even if all they did was use the bathroom.
    Step 3. Convene a Board of Inquiry.
    Step 4. Define a new strategy for weapons acquisition based on kaizen (the practice of continuous improvement).
    Step 5. Start the transition from air power based on the romantic WWI concept of the knight in gleaming armor jousting mano a mano against the Red Baron, to new concepts based on remotely piloted aircraft, smaller less vulnerable aircraft carriers, networked battle spaces. Try to understand the potential conflict spaces around the world and adapt to them.
    Step 6. Inscribe this above the doors to the Pentagon “Toys Do Not Win Wars. Warriors Win Wars”

    • Andrew Allison

      Just wish I had more votes. This program is an outrage, and all concerned should be sanctioned.

    • Fat_Man

      Highly Recomended:

      “The Other Army Green” by Kevin D. Williamson on March 18, 2015

      “Until somebody can explain why we’re mothballing ships while minting admirals, the sequester should stay — every last farthing of it.”

  • Tempus Fugit

    …the Jsf-35 Lightning should be canceled, and there is another project in the works to take its place! There is a new (well….not really that new) jet fighter trainer being developed by Boeing/Saab for the TX trainer program! The Saab Gripen E/F is considered the best jet fighter in the world!……the United States military should take a look at it!

  • FriendlyGoat

    I don’t follow the weapons programs as much as some people do, so I’ll start by admitting I don’t know much about them. I’m beginning to wonder, though, given the long development of the F-35, if we are not seeing drone technology already overtaking this plane in real usefulness. Lots of tech items have fallen QUICKLY by the wayside in recent years to the surprise of all of us. Could the F-35 be suffering something rather akin to land-line phones?

    • Curious Mayhem

      Drones will take over some missions, but they can’t do all at this point. The growing failure of the F-35 reflects the once-in-every-generation, recurring mistaken belief that one system can do everything well. The time-tested and right approach is a mix of specialties. Every modern war has demonstrated this.

  • Curious Mayhem

    For anyone old enough to remember, this is McNamara’s F-111 debacle all over again — the plane that’s supposed to do everything can’t do anything.

  • John Tyler

    The A10 Warthog is the finest close-ground-support attack plane ever built.
    NO OTHER PLANE IN THE WORLD can loiter as long over a battlefield and deliver the offensive firepower capability as the A10. It is built VERY, very, ruggedly to absorb tremendous punishment and still survive.

    Because it is not a fighter plane , the Air Force has no interest at all in this plane; it has zero “Top Gun” appeal to the Air Force brass.

    Frankly, the Army and Marines should have their own “Air Force” to provide adequate ground support for foot soldiers and marines, and the Air Force should be removed from this responsibility.

    The best fighter plane in the world is the F22 and many more should have been built to achieve air superiority; the F35 NEVER should have been built. It is a mutt that is average everywhere, cannot achieve air supremacy, and excels in no task. It iwas and is a total waste of money.

    Bring back an upgraded A10, build more F22s, dump the F35, and allow the Navy to have a plane THEY REALLY NEED,

  • Josephbleau

    Any military officer that can’t kill you with one half of a tooth pick needs to be fired. Including the engineers and acountants

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