I've written several times before about the monumental boondoggle that the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II strike aircraft has become. Things show no sign of improvement.
The latest summary of this colossal white elephant comes in a five-part series from Winslow Wheeler in Time magazine:
- The New Era of Good F-35 Feelings
- Alphabet Soup: PAUCs, APUCs, URFs, Cost Variances and Other Pricing Dodges
- The Deadly Empirical Data
- Different Planes, Common Problems
- On Final Approach to Fighter Fiscal Sanity
They're all very interesting and worth reading, but the crunch comes in the final article. Here's an excerpt.
The breakdown of each year’s procurement spending and authorized production yields an annual F-35 unit production cost. For 2014, F-35As will cost $188.5 million each; F-35Bs and Cs will average $277.9 million each, and all F-35s will cost, on average, $219.3 million.
Claims by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Air Force Lieut. General Christopher Bogdan, the F-35 program chief, that the F-35’s per-plane cost is “coming down” and “continues to come down,” respectively, are not accurate.
. . .
The history of combat-aircraft acquisition warns us that F-35 unit costs will be much higher than are currently projected by the Pentagon and Lockheed-Martin, and will remain well above what can be characterized as affordable.
The data reported to the public and Congress on F-35 costs and production, from the Defense Department’s comptroller, do not conform to the data in other Pentagon reports. Even the number of F-35 units authorized to be produced, and the number to be delivered, are in dispute.
Without a complete and independent audit of the F-35 program, including any costs that may not now be a formal part of the program as reported in Selected Acquisition Reports, it is impossible to discern which F-35 cost reports, if any, are accurate, and precisely what F-35 costs are today and will be in the future.
. . .
American taxpayers, the U.S. military services, and foreign purchasers — all of whom have been promised F-35 aircraft for as little as $85 million each — are in for a rude awakening. When real F-35 purchase prices unfold in the future, they may be as much as they are today—averaging more than $200 million per aircraft.
It remains inevitable that as actual costs sink in, fewer aircraft will be purchased.
This toxic stew of the F-35’s high cost, abetted by concurrent production, lagging performance and continuing design problems, has put U.S. and allied air power into a dive.
The dive will steepen so long as F-35 production at the currently-projected rates continues.
There's more at the link.
To add insult to injury, David Axe details the size and extent of Lockheed Martin's publicity machine, which constantly seeks to put a positive 'spin' on the F-35 program and keep government money flowing to it, despite the program's many and well-known errors, problems and delays. As Andrew Cockburn points out, the campaign even appears to extend to putting pressure on local politicians and 'buying' favorable politicians. It's my personal opinion that this entire public relations effort is nothing more than an attempt to fraudulently deceive the US electorate about the waste of their money that the F-35 program has come to represent.
I repeat what I've said before. I believe the entire F-35 program has become bloated, ineffective and corrupt. I think the whole thing should be shut down before it does irreparable damage to the USAF and the air defense of the United States and its allies. We can do much better, at a far more reasonable cost.
I suppose there's one positive thing about it, though . . . China has allegedly stolen much of the design of the F-35 through cyber-espionage. Its recently-unveiled Shenyang J-31 'stealth' jet fighter prototype appears to incorporate many features of both the F-35 and the earlier F-22. If China's copying this boondoggle, perhaps it, too, will waste much of its air force's substance on a white elephant. That, at least, may allow the USAF to fight China - if matters should ever come to that - with an aircraft equal in inferiority to the enemy's!