More than 100 F-35s in service can’t fight

The U.S. military has signaled that it might cancel essential upgrades for more than 100 early model F-35 stealth fighters flown by the Air Force, rendering the radar-evading jets incompatible with many of the latest weapons.

In that case, some 6 percent of the flying branch’s planned 1,700-strong F-35 fleet would be unfit for combat, sticking U.S. taxpayers with a $20 billion tab for fighters… that can’t fight.

Skipping upgrades for 108 older F-35As—“concurrency orphans,” Grazier dubbed them—is reportedly one option under consideration as the Pentagon tries to find money for scores of newer F-35s. “We’re looking at solution spaces to give our warfighters options,” Navy Vice Adm. Matt Winter, head of the F-35 program, told Flight Global. The military asked Congress to fund 70 F-35s in 2018 for $10.3 billion. …

The Navy and Marines also possess 81 F-35s with Block 2B software. It’s unclear whether they, too, could be passed over for upgrades. …

Besides, concurrency has been popular with industry officials, senior officers and some lawmakers, who view it as a way of building a constituency for an expensive new weapons program before it proves, or disproves, itself. “Concurrency is not a development strategy,” Pierre Sprey, a former warplane designer, told The Daily Beast. “Instead, it is a political strategy intended to make megabuck programs impossible to cancel or shrink when they fail in test.”

As a political strategy, overlapping the design and production of the F-35 has worked. While the Air Force might wind up with more than 100 F-35 stealth fighters that can’t fight, no one is seriously proposing to cancel the program.

The Air Force Just Bought 100 Stealth Fighters That Can’t Fight