Wednesday, 25 May 2011

The Latest News on the Troubled F-35

Things just keep getting better and better in this sad little tale. First we have President Obama threatening to veto a defense authorization bill to develop a second engine. This has been bandied about for some time now, with various arguments for and against, but Defense Secretary Gates has come out firmly against it as wasteful.

Then there's the news that Japan is rethinking its plan to purchase the F-35 in light of the delays that keep cropping up in the program. They're considering the F/A-18 Super Hornet and the Eurofighter Typhoon as alternatives.

Or the news that the F-35's operational range falls short of estimates and program requirements. Fantastic, so the plane that Canada will need to maintain Arctic sovereignty has a range that falls 15% below the original estimates? I should note that carrying external fuel tanks does seriously degrade the vaunted "stealth" capabilities of the F-35, rendering it just as visible as any of its competitors (which, far from being six years from operational testing, are already operational with numerous countries).

I think my favourite piece of news to crop up of late is this one: Lockheed doesn't actually have an estimate of the cost of the F-35 program. They claim it will be less expensive than the estimates others have advanced, but when asked for a number, they reply "insufficient data". Come on, guys, at least have the courtesy to lie. You could always state later that "our estimate was made with too little information, but on further testing cost estimates are being revised upwards."

Even I could come up with some convincing weasel words there, and I'm just one of the plebes. You lot are the largest supplier of the United States Military (and, let's remember, the worst and most notorious war profiteers) and the best you could manage was "insufficient data"? That's really just sad. I expect better from the crowning beacon of the Military Industrial Complex. It's like you're not even trying.

Finally, just to round up this set of links: the U.S. Senate and the Department of Defense are in agreement that the F-35 program is going to cost too much. Lockheed of course claims they can bring costs down (any takers for THAT particular bet?) and that they can build them and run them more cheaply. They just need more time for testing.

While the meter is running, of course.

It's really quite simple: Canada has been sucked into the U.S.A's most expensive (or is that costly?) military acquisition ever, along with numerous other countries that have fallen for the hype. The F-35 development has been a morass of unanswered questions, extended delays, cost overruns and diminishing expectations. Other nations are starting to see the writing on the wall, but extracting themselves from this whirling vortex of failure promises to be quite a challenge.

I've said it before and I'll say it again - Canada needs to start over from scratch with a completely open and competitive bidding process. Replacing our CF-18's isn't a question, it needs to be done to protect our men and women in uniform. What we choose to replace them with, however, remains to be determined. Throwing our money into the black hole that is the F-35 is just folly.

In spite of what our glorious, dead-eyed leader and his cronies would tell us, there ARE other options. Most of them cheaper, already tested and ready for delivery.

It's really just that easy.

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