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. Continue reading
It helps considerably that many of these customers have more than just a few tonnes of precision-engineered titanium to gain from any deal: the beauty of the JSF project is that everyone can bring something to the party. In a Lancashire workshop, for instance, BAE Systems is building a section of the aft fuselage, including the tail, for every F-35; along with other contributions from all over the world, these pieces are then shipped to Texas for final assembly. This means that every F-35 sale is a boost to the coffers of Britain’s own largest arms company. (BAE has also been allowed to do the foldy bits at the end of the wings.) And the opportunities are everywhere. There are aluminium sheets from Milton Keynes, electronic modules from Billingstad, circuit boards from Ankara, hydraulics from Melbourne, wiring systems from Rotterdam, manifolds from Adelaide, wing parts from Turin and actuators from New York. So when Trump threatened to slash the cost of the F-35 programme, or divert some of the custom to cheaper competitors, it wasn’t only American defence contractors who were in the firing line. Everyone had something to lose. On 30 January, ten days after taking office, Trump announced that he had negotiated $600 million off the price tag of the next batch of F-35s. Lockheed’s CEO chose not to shatter his illusion, but it turned out that the next ninety planes were always going to be cheaper anyway – by between 6 and 7 per cent, or $550 and $650 million. The more you build the cheaper they get, thanks to economies of scale. Happily for everyone involved, this also means that more get sold. The ‘military-industrial complex’ turns out to be very simple: the juggernaut has its own momentum. Once it’s rolling it can’t be stopped, even if you’re Donald Trump, something he finally came to acknowledge on 16 March, when his budget plan for the next fiscal year allowed for the ramping-up of F-35 production as part of a proposed 10 per cent increase in overall military spending.
This claim is as generous as it is deceptive. For one thing, that is just the estimated cost of an Air Force conventional take-off variant, the F-35A — the least expensive of the three variants. In addition, that cost figure is actually only an estimate, one that assumes everything will perfectly for the F-35 from here on out and that the Pentagon will buy more than it had planned.
When people say the F-35 will only cost $85 million, they are only talking about the price of the airframe and the engine. Proponents don’t include how much it will cost to fix design flaws found in testing — a not insubstantial amount of money.
An F-35B Joint Strike Fighter caught fire while in-flight during a training exercise last month, according to a report from Hope Hodge Seck of Military.com.
The incident was listed by the Naval Safety Center as a “Class A Mishap” — the most serious mishap class — which means that there was $2 million or more in damage. Continue reading
The J-20 was developed as a foil to advanced U.S. fighters, including fourth generation F-16 Fighting Falcons and F/A-18 Hornets and, more directly, fifth-generation F-22 Raptors and F-35 Lightning fighters.
In 2009, a breach of F-35 project resulted in the theft of several terabytes of data. Though the attack was never publicly attributed to China by the U.S. government, visual similarities in the chassis of the J-20 to the F-35 have led commentators to speculate that the stolen F-35 intellectual property helped state-owned Chengdu Aerospace Corporation develop their fighter.
A petition to the United States Congress and the governments of Australia, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Turkey, the United Kingdom, Israel, Japan and South Korea from the world and from the people of Burlington, Vermont, and Fairbanks, Alaska, where the F-35 is to be based. Initiated by Vermont Stop the F35 Coalition, Save Our Skies Vermont, Western Maine Matters, Alaska Peace Center, University of Alaska Fairbanks Peace Club, North Star Chapter 146 Veterans For Peace, World Beyond War, RootsAction.org, Code Pink, Ben Cohen.
The petition reads:
The F-35 is a weapon of offensive war, serving no defensive purpose. It is planned to cost the U.S. $1.4 trillion over 50 years. Because starvation on earth could be ended for $30 billion and the lack of clean drinking water for $11 billion per year, it is first and foremost through the wasting of resources that this airplane will kill. Military spending, contrary to popular misconception, also hurts the U.S. economy (see here) and other economies. The F-35 causes negative health impacts and cognitive impairment in children living near its bases. It renders housing near airports unsuitable for residential use. It has a high crash rate and horrible consequences to those living in the area of its crashes. Its emissions are a major environmental polluter.
Wars are endangering the United States and other participating nations rather than protecting them. Nonviolent tools of law, diplomacy, aid, crisis prevention, and verifiable nuclear disarmament should be substituted for continuing counterproductive wars. Therefore, we, the undersigned, call for the immediate cancellation of the F-35 program as a whole, and the immediate cancellation of plans to base any such dangerous and noisy jets near populated areas. We oppose replacing the F-35 with any other weapon or basing the F-35 in any other locations. We further demand redirection of the money for the F-35 back into taxpayers’ pockets, and into environmental and human needs in the U.S., other F-35 customer nations, and around the world, including to fight climate change, pay off student debt, rebuild crumbling infrastructure, and improve education, healthcare, and housing. Continue reading
Last month the Air Force declared its variant “ready for combat,” and most press reports lauded this as a signal that the program had turned a corner. But a memo issued from the Pentagon’s top testing official, based largely upon the Air Force’s own test data, showed that the declaration was wildly premature.
Michael Gilmore’s latest memorandum is damning. The F-35 program has derailed to the point where it “is actually not on a path toward success, but instead on a path toward failing to deliver the full Block 3F capabilities for which the Department is paying almost $400 billion.”
The 16-page memo, first reported by Tony Capaccio at Bloomberg and then by others, details just how troubled this program is — years behind schedule and failing to deliver even the most basic capabilities taxpayers, and the men and women who will entrust their lives to it, have been told to expect.
The Pentagon’s top testing office warns that the F-35 is in no way ready for combat since it is “not effective and not suitable across the required mission areas and against currently fielded threats.” Continue reading