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A Long Process
F-35 Declared Ready for Battle
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  • Nevis07

    If they work as advertised then they’re just in time to either deter or be used in some potential showdowns with Russia and China. Either that, or they’re not working as well as hoped and the generals are bluffing…

    • f1b0nacc1

      We are only at the IOC, so we won’t have any real indication of whether they work at all for quite some time yet.

  • f1b0nacc1

    What has actually been done is that the F-35A has reached it’s IOC (Initial Operating Capability), not Full Operating Capability, a very different thing. Currently the F-35A only uses a subset of its planned weapons load (basically variations on SDAMs and JDAMs along with the AMRAAM), and isn’t even close to a mature version of the ALIS 2.0 software that it needs to be useful in the field. The Air Force (whose leadership has mortgaged virtually every other program in order to drag this across the finish line) is declaring one squadron with very limited capabilities operational so they can free up the next tranche of funding, and very little more. Right now the plane can do very little, and there is no reason to believe (as yet) that it will every live up to the very big promises that are being made for it by its fanbois. Even leaving aside the ballooning costs, the software issues, the very limited weapons loadouts (in its much-touted stealth mode, the plane cannot even use the AIM-9X at this time, and isn’t like to be able to do so operationally until at least 2017, possibly much later), the aircraft has significant range and reliability issues.
    I am hardly a peacenik by any means, but if you need an example of waste in military procurement, this is exhibit A, B, and C…possibly D as well (though the LCS might win qualify for that dubious honor…) Even if the Air Force gets its wish (which nobody seriously expects), we will only get 1763 of these turkeys, about 500 less than are actually required for even barebones deployment plans. In the meantime, we have cut operations funding (maintenance, etc.) for our existing aircraft resulting in spare parts shortages, reduced flying time for pilots (a devastating mistake that directly impacts aircrew quality), and other readiness issues. We are making Lockheed Martin execs rich, and providing cushy retirement options for Air Force brass (the latter explains their enthusiasm for the program….after all, they do have their post-service life to think of…) at the expense of force readiness and long-term sustainability.

    • Andrew Allison

      There appears to be a word or two missing between “in order to drag this” and “across the finish line”. Dog, Pig & POS come immediately to mind.

      • f1b0nacc1

        Yes, but it is, after all, a family blog…

  • TGates

    Throughout my 40 year association with the US Army, I wish I had a dollar for every time I have heard about criticism about a new command, control, communications and/or weapons system. The first time I encountered this was relative to the M16 rifle. After hearing nothing but criticism of the rifle during the Vietnam and post Vietnam period, I went to my first duty post at Ft. Bragg and I was stunned to see that most Special Forces soldiers carried the M16 despite the fact they were allowed to carry any rifle they wanted. When I asked about it, I was told that though the rifle had some initial issues, they were readily fixed and now considered the best infantry weapon in the world. The AK-47, while durable and reliable, were inaccurate and the ammunition to heavy. That sure was not the story in the popular press. I remember similar criticisms of the: A-10, Cobra, AH-64 Apache, F-16, laser guided munitions, the SAW-246, etc. etc. All have proven to be excellent weapons systems. The F-35 will also.

    • f1b0nacc1

      One of the more intelligent defenses of the F-35 (though not specifically of the F-35) that I have seen.
      Let me offer a counterpoint. While you have identified many weapon systems that were originally derided as failures, but later were revealed to be successes, I can point out any number of systems (the original F-111, the Comanche, the A-12, the Crusader, the M-14, etc.) that were labeled as failures and in fact DID FAIL. Almost by definition, anything that survives long enough for the soldiers in the field to actually come in contact with it is something of a success (though there are notable exceptions to this), so your personal experience, while useful for perspective, doesn’t really prove anything. The F-35 is a great example of a weapon system that has failed to meet almost every single programmatic milestone that it was supposed to, yet is still being pushed by the Air Force brass as the solution to all things.
      Moving away from this contentious subject for a moment, I find it refreshing to see someone who has perspective on the whole M-16 vs AK-47 debate. While I wish that the military would move away from 5.56 ammo (I am more of a 6.8 guy myself….grin), the M-16 has actually managed to compile quite a record of success for itself in its 60+ years in the field…

      • TGates

        You make excellent points. As to the F-35, I suspect that the platform is oriented more towards being a Triple C and weapons platform for future enhanced technology, particularly lasers and missiles, rather than dog-fighting. My guess is in that developing the next 40 year aircraft, the planners anticipate that the human body is at its edge of physical capabilities and therefore force will be projected by fire and forget weapons at greater ranges. Typical argument in those who fight the last war. Agree with you on the 5.56. Under current Geneva Convention protocols i doubt whether the 5.56 will continue to be effective against advanced body armor. May take a bigger round.

        • f1b0nacc1

          Agreed re: 5.56….
          Regarding advanced A2A technologies, I suspect that we are looking at Arsenal planes + UAVs with a few Gen6 fighters in the future. I am not sure that I buy the whole ‘planes are too hot for the pilots argument’, one could easily make the case that missiles are too hot for the airframes…. But that is for another time…

  • Brian

    This is very interesting to me. I’m not a tech guy in any sense of the word, but I do remember the Osprey, which suffered attacks quite similar to what the F-35 program has been subjected to. The press was horrible, the list of failures beyond counting.

    I myself thought it to have been a “dead plane (not) flying,” but it seems to have survived and acquired quite a useful and unique role.

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