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Sat Mar 13, 2021, 09:31 PM

NYT Editorial Board: The Fighter Jet That's Too Pricey to Fail

Source: New York Times

The Fighter Jet That’s Too Pricey to Fail

The F-35 is a boondoggle. Yet we’re stuck with it.

By The Editorial Board
The editorial board is a group of opinion journalists whose views are informed by expertise, research, debate and certain longstanding values. It is separate from the newsroom.

March 12, 2021

Last week, the new head of the House Armed Services Committee, Representative Adam Smith, said in an interview that the F-35 fighter jet was a “rathole” draining money. He said the Pentagon should consider whether to “cut its losses.” That promptly set off another round of groaning about the most expensive weapon system ever built, and questions about whether it should — or could — be scrapped.

Conceived in the 1990s as a sort of Swiss army knife of fighter jets, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter was meant to come as a conventional fighter for the Air Force, as a carrier-based fighter for the Navy and as a vertical-landing version for the Marines. The problems, and there were lots of them, set in early. All three versions of the plane ended up at least three years behind schedule, and sharing less than a quarter of their parts instead of the anticipated 70 percent. Many of those already built need updates; hundreds of defects are still being corrected; the jet is so expensive to maintain that it costs around $36,000 per hour to fly (compared to $22,000 for an older F-16). At the current rate, it will cost taxpayers more than $1 trillion over its 60-year life span.

So, kill the monster and start looking for alternatives? Or declare it too big to fail and make the best of it?

Last month, the Air Force chief of staff, Gen. Charles Brown Jr., gave his answer when he said that the F-35 should become the Ferrari of the fleet: “You only drive it on Sundays.” For other days, Air Force officials recently said they were exploring less expensive options, including new F-16s, low-cost tactical drones or building another fighter from scratch. But the F-35 was here to stay, General Brown insisted: “The F-35 is the cornerstone of what we’re pursuing. Now we’re going to have the F-35, we’re getting it out, and we’re going to have it for the future.”

Representative Smith — a Democrat whose Washington constituency includes Boeing, which was beat out for the F-35 contract by Lockheed Martin — acknowledged in an interview that there was no easy way to get rid of the F-35.


Read more: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/03/12/opinion/f-35-fighter-jet-cost.html

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