Saturday, December 17, 2011

Trillion-Dollar Jet Fighter Has Thirteen Expensive New Flaws

The fiscal insanity at the five-sided monster on the banks of the Potomac just continues on relentlessly, as reported this week:
The most expensive weapons program in U.S. history is about to get a lot pricier.

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, meant to replace nearly every tactical warplane in the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps, was already expected to cost $1 trillion dollars for development, production and maintenance over the next 50 years. Now that cost is expected to grow, owing to 13 different design flaws uncovered in the last two months by a hush-hush panel of five Pentagon experts. It could cost up to a billion dollars to fix the flaws on copies of the jet already in production, to say nothing of those yet to come.

In addition to costing more, the stealthy F-35 could take longer to complete testing. That could delay the stealthy jet’s combat debut to sometime after 2018 — seven years later than originally planned. And all this comes as the Pentagon braces for big cuts to its budget while trying to save cherished but costly programs like the Joint Strike Fighter.

Frank Kendall, the Pentagon’s top weapons-buyer, convened the so-called “Quick Look Review” panel in October. Its report — 55 pages of dense technical jargon and intricate charts — was leaked this weekend. Kendall and company found a laundry list of flaws with the F-35, including a poorly placed tail hook, lagging sensors, a buggy electrical system and structural cracks.

Some of the problems — the electrical bugs, for instance — were becoming clear before the Quick Look Review; others are brand-new. The panelists describe them all in detail and, for the first time, connect them to the program’s underlying management problems. Most ominously, the report mentions — but does not describe — a “classified” deficiency. “Dollars to doughnuts it has something to do with stealth,” aviation guru Bill Sweetman wrote. In other words, the F-35 might not be as invisible to radar as prime contractor Lockheed Martin said it would be.
Actually, I was wondering if it might have something to do with the faulty electronic components that defense contractors have been buying from China.

Regardless, the fact that America is spending a trillion dollars on new jet fighters when the country is more that $15 trillion in debt already just defies rational commentary. Really, I am just not a good enough writer to adequately express the anger and outrage I felt when I read that not only are we throwing another trillion dollars down the military-industrial complex rat hole, but we might have to spend billions more because the damn planes don't even do what they are supposed to do.

Other issues aside, this is another example of the diminishing returns that eventually arise from a never ending pursuit of technological superiority. The U.S already possesses by far the most advanced weaponry in every category in sufficient quantities as to make us utterly invulnerable from conventional military attack. And yet that still isn't enough. We keep pursuing advancement in weapons systems, even as the insane amounts of money spent on them are helping to ensure that our economy will collapse at some point, rendering all that hardware utterly useless.

Amazingly, it appears as though this program has become such a fiasco that even our so-called "leaders" have taken notice:
“It is at this exact moment that the excessive overlap between development and production that was originally structured into the JSF program … is now coming home to roost,” said Sen. John McCain, an Arizona Republican and the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “If things do not improve — quickly — taxpayers and the warfighter will insist that all options will be on the table. And they should be. We cannot continue on this path.”
When even a sick old warmonger like "Bomb-bomb Iran" McCain is speaking out against a Pentagon boondoggle, you know the program is in deep trouble.

Bonus: A song dedicated to the worst jet pilot in U.S. military history


  1. Check out 'Jet Fighter' by the Butthole Surfers. A very underrated band.

  2. @Paul - I was familiar with the BH Surfers, but not that song. I just checked it out on You Tube. Great stuff...thanks!