National Security

America’s Military Readiness Should Not Be Hurt by Broken F-35s

Taxpayers have been paying a hefty price for jets that don't work, notes this op-ed — let's fix the problem asap, says the author

Stores often put up signs to warn shoppers: “You break it, you buy it.”

Unfortunately, Lockheed Martin has turned that consumer advice upside down with its Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), the F-35.

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The defense contractor’s theory seems to be, “We broke it, you buy it anyway.”

Oh, and American taxpayers, despite paying a hefty price for jets that don’t work, can’t even get access to the intellectual property that might help our military fix the JSF.

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“An ongoing legal dispute between the U.S. government and Lockheed Martin over intellectual property (IP) rights in the F-35 program has emerged as the source of a 2.5-year delay in activating a key system required to complete initial operational testing and the full-rate production decision,” Aviation Week reports.

This delay is annoying, but it’s just the latest delay for the F-35.

Its problems have been building since the beginning of the program in the 1990s.

The idea behind the JSF was to build a single jet that could be used by the Navy, Marines and Air Force. These planes would have interchangeable parts, saving on maintenance and on training.

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But in reality, the entire program proved too complex.

Lockheed couldn’t deliver on time or on budget.

The military made things worse by buying new fighters while the existing ones were still being tested.

This was called “concurrency,” and it was supposed to save money. But it backfired.

Most F-35s ended up being retrofitted at great expense. Those that don’t get fixed are called “concurrency orphans” and will probably never come up to the standards the military needs them to meet.

Because of its various problems, the F-35 is endlessly over budget. The entire program was supposed to cost just over $400 billion. Now, Forbes reports that “the total cost of the F-35 program is expected to be $1.5 trillion over its 55-year lifespan.”

The JSF is expensive to build, but also expensive to fly. “The latest Pentagon selected acquisition report on the program put the cost per flying hour of the F-35 at around $30,000 per flying hour in 2012 dollars, compared to around $25,500 per hour for an older-generation F-16 fighter,” Investing.com explains.

It may not be possible to ever bring that cost down.

Of course, there would be no need to harp on costs if the JSF actually worked as advertised. Price is no object when it comes to projecting American power and protecting American warriors. But the JSF simply doesn’t do the jobs the military needs done.

For one thing, the JSF can’t seem to get into the air. A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report this year found that only about a quarter of F-35s were capable of accomplishing their mission in the previous year.

That’s astonishing, even given the complexity of the weapon system.

Then there is force projection. It’s important to let an opponent know you’re on the scene, because doing so can reduce aggressive action.

The F-35 can’t do that. Instead, the “U.S. military sends F-15 fighter jets” and other aircraft when it wants to project a show of force against Turkish-backed forces, Fox News reports.

Similarly, F-15s were recently used to project force against Iranian threats.

For some reason, lawmakers are eager to boost the military’s purchase of F-35s.

Congress wants to buy 104 new F-35s — a whopping 24 more than budgeted for by President Donald Trump.

If we’re being honest, which I realize is a rarity in D.C., it would make more sense to buy more of the planes that are actually getting the job done.

The next generation F-15X is a great option, a weapon system that has been protecting the country for years. It would cost less to build and service than the JSF. And it’s ready for service.

The F-35 program is broken.

Lawmakers need to provide a fix, before the lack of a dependable fighter starts to hurt our military readiness.

Jon “Justice” LoGiudice is co-host of the “Justice and Drew Show” for iHeart radio in Minneapolis and author of sci-fi books available at www.MyNerdWorld.net.

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