A tale of two airplanes

A tale of two airplanes

Air Force Lt. Col. Dan Ward has asked a rhetorical question that deserves some thought: Why is the Air Force aching to get rid of its C-27J Spartan fun-size airlifters, yet willing to risk penury by continuing to push for the F-35 Lightning II?

Writing at Mark Thompson’s Battleland blog, Ward sets up the framework for solving such a quandary:

There are basically three reasons to cancel an acquisition program. In no particular order, the reasons are: We can’t afford it. We don’t need it. It doesn’t work.

He continues:

Stars and Stripes just ran an ironically-placed pair of articles. The top of page 4 featured a piece from the Los Angeles Times about the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter’s ballooning costs, showing how the estimated price tag jumped from $233B in 2001 to $395B in 2011. That’s an increase of $162B for an aircraft that is expected to deliver its first basic combat capability in 2015, assuming all the technical problems can be solved by then. The article quoted Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta as saying, “We absolutely need it for the future.”

Just to jump in real quick here — there is no official date by which the F-35 will “deliver its first basic combat capability;” 2015 is Ward’s charitable guesstimate. As you’ve read here many times, today the jet has no official date for initial operational capability. Back to Ward:

 Immediately below the JSF story was a piece about the USAF’s pending decision to cut the C-27J Spartan, which the U.S. has been using for combat supply missions in Afghanistan for the past eight months. The Air Force has spent approximately $1B on the Spartan so far and recently signed a contract worth $2B, but the article explained that Air Force leaders now see the small cargo hauler as “a luxury it cannot afford in this era of cost-cutting.”

If the Spartan is an unaffordable luxury at $2B, it does beg the question of the JSF’s affordability at $395B. We can afford the expensive one but not the cheap one? I think that’s a fair question to ask, since the C-27 is being called “unaffordable” while the JSF’s cost growth alone is 80 times larger than the new Spartan contract.

As for necessity, if we don’t need the C-27J – which is flying in today’s war – one might perhaps be forgiven for wondering how much we need the still-being-developed JSF, whose most optimistic delivery date occurs after the projected 2014 departure from Afghanistan. Of course, the SECDEF’s commitment to the JSF couldn’t be clearer, so the necessity question for that particular aircraft is settled in the affirmative – at least for now. A final question remains – does it work? Since the C-27J is flying missions this very minute, it clearly earns a yes. Based on the latest test results, I’m sorry to say the JSF doesn’t get a yes quite yet.

It’s an incisive analysis. Ward’s problem, however, is that he is thinking like a rational human being, and that’s not how we play the game  inside the military-industrial-congressional complex. One of the upsides of the “gap” between the civil and military worlds, from the Iron Triangle’s perspective, is that more Americans don’t know enough about these issues to reach this kind of conclusion and then raise questions about it. There are answers to his questions, just not simple answers.

Then again, maybe it shouldn’t be so complicated: What do you think?



Join the Conversation

what do i think? i think you wrote an inflammatory article that ignores some stark realities at play here.

what about an entire generation of aircraft becoming obsolete at the same time? what about the fact that our potential adversaries are developing stealth aircraft? how about the fact that the JSF program is really 3 programs in 1 so you shouldn’t compare it on an apple to apples basis with any other program.

but that’s not how the game is played in defense journalism. especially when herd mentality has struck and it gets you pats on the back to slam a program. the JSF in particular.

Defense planning involves multi-criteria decision making that is way beyond Lt Col Ward’s, or any one individual’s, perspective of what is rational. Your categorization of Lt Col Ward as “rational” and the senior leadership’s decision making on F-35 & C-27 as a game to be played by the Iron Triangle, which is sure to result in a violent reaction towards the USAF, is unfair, in that it does not account for the multiple management control methods that prevent any sole actor from abusing power. The decisions to allocate scarce resources are made through multiple boards of colonels, GO’s, and senior leaders, and final decisions are made by the SecDef and the POTUS. And no money will be spent without Congressional appropriation under threat of veto power by the POTUS, and all elected officials being accountable to the American public through the ballot box. Your article omits the concept of the time value of money involved as well, as you are comparing the immediate $1B-$2B for the Spartan with the estimated JSF acquisition program balance which is to be spent over 2 more decades.

Sure, cancel the F-35 and pretend the $50 billion you’ve already spent on development doesn’t exist. The defense contractors will laugh all the way to the bank. After all, the next program will be better, right? I mean, in the last 30 years each and every program gets cheaper and provides more capability sooner, right? What, no? You say that the last 30 years has indicated every new program drags out longer and costs more for less capability? Hmm, only an idiot would cancel any program under those conditions. Ah, but we have no shortage of idiots in this country, especially idiots with too much money. Those idiots deserve to have their money taken from them, and the US defense contractor is poised to do it.

Dude… Criticize the facts not the article as a whole, its Military news and that’s what we all want to read.

I agree with Cha0stician. These decisions are not made in a vacuum, by biased individuals. They are the result of long, careful deciison processes, involving, as he said “multiple boards of colonels, GO’s, and senior leaders, and final decisions are made by the SecDef and the POTUS”. I also agree with Lt Col Ward’s analysis, including his three reasons for cancelling a program. The disconnect, I believe, is in the attributed AF statement of their reason for cancelling the C27-J. Phillip Ewing quotes Lt Col Ward who quotes a Stars and Stripes article which apparently quotes “Air Force leaders” as saying that the C27-J is “a luxury it cannot afford in this era of cost-cutting.” Hmmm. From other articles I read here on DoD Buzz, I thought the primary reason was that the mission was covered by other aricraft. The question “why can we afford 395 Billion for that, but not 2 Billion of this?” is a valid question. But to simply raise the question, and then not try to honestly answer it, intentionally leaving the impression that there is no good answer, or that the answer is incompetence, or corruption, without supporting that supposition, is yellow journalism.

F-35 was conceived in a different era than the one we are in now. Originally F-35 was sold as a cheap replacement for F-16, F/A-18 and AV-8B that would cost no more but provide a stealthy-ish 1st day of the war capability. It was conceived with the vision that we would have plenty of F-22s to rule the sky (originally 750 then reduced to about 400). It was conceived as a program with high commonality so that you’d get 3 aircraft for nearly the price of one and where testing was nearly unnecessary due to sophisticated modeling and simulation tools. It was conceived in an era with no competing superpowers and therefore range and payload were not that important.


As we pivot to the East and realise that most of the assumptions that started the F-35 program are no longer true you need to reassess if this is really the right path especially as the price continues to climb and the IOC date continues to slide.

In my opinion we need to restart the F-22 line. Yeh thats $400M of additional costs (according to Rand) but it would provide us badley needed air dominance platforms that the F-35 never could fully replace. We also need a long range strike aircraft from the carriers. A-12 could have been that. Now F/A-XX is projected as IOC of 2030 (much later in all reality). F-35s are just too expensive for what they are going to add to the mix and lack capabilites needed in the Asian AOR.

The real long-and-hard question is if the complex nature of modern weapons procurement defies manageability and is this a tradeoff we must continue to make.

Thus ensuring that nobody can be blamed for the entire corrupt system.

To call it accountablity is laughable.

Seriously, I am outraged at the wasteful spending of our defense industry. $2B dollar useful aircraft cancelled and an obscenely expensive aircraft still getting funds with no results to show for it. One of the ways we beat the Soviet Union was by spending them into the ground. We are our own worst enemy right now as we are doing that to ourselves with the F-35.

The F-35C and F-35B could easily be replaced by upgraded Super Hornets and upgraded weapons in vast numbers that would provide an increase in our capability. This is brief 17 page analysis on why the USN and USMC shouldn’t buy the F-35: http://​www​.scribd​.com/​d​o​c​/​8​8​9​4​6​6​6​0​/​W​h​y​-​t​h​e​-​U​S​N​-an

Tell me when the buffeting issues and thermal management issues of the F-35 will be solved. There is an alternative to the F-35 and it is called the F-22 and it will be able to deal with future threats.

no. if you followed the chain, you’d see that the accountability, as well as the power to change the system and improve decision making, is with the elected officials and the people who elected them.

The dynamic of wasteful spending is by no means limited to defense. It is also unfair to pin this all on the industry. If the government advocates for the weapon system (most of the proponency is attributable to the senior uniformed leadership) want the impossible to begin with, and then constantly change what they want, then the root of the problem is failed government leadership, not the defense industry as a whole. Defense spending is a convenient whipping boy for the nation’s problems. But health care spending, driven by the obesity epidemic, and to a lesser extent social security, are much greater threats to the long term economic & national security then the costs of the defense program.

You can also argue that the defense program repays itself through not only our national security, and freedom, but also the economic benefits of systems like GPS, the internet, radar systems, etc. as well as the export market. I agree with you the cost of the defense program is outrageous, but the greater threat is the erosion of our culture, numerical illiteracy, and corrupt political leadership. Look at Obama’s health care reform. You think the costs of the F-35 are outrageous? The health care reform has greater infinite cost risk, as well as a Constitutional crisis that threatens our nation more than the F-35. Illegal immigration divide between states and feds is another greater threat.

Hell yeah. Don’t worry about defense. Just because you pay these contractors $1.10 for every $1.00 they spend dragging out and jacking up the cost of weapons, doesn’t mean they are doing this to make more profit. No, it is the government employees who have nothing to gain from this system who are screwing things up, not the contractors who just happen to make record profits year after year. Besides, this is all too complex for your puny little brain. Why don’t you go watch sports on TV? Yes, that’s a good idea, go watch TV and everything will be better tomorrow.

not bloody likely cowboy. its amazing that the same people that talk about the F-35 isn’t capable of fighting in the Pacific are the same ones that also fail to note that the F-35 out ranges the F-22.

how do you have visibility on the buffeting and thermal management issues? sounds like APA talking points. let me guess. you’re on the mailing list right?

oh and i can criticize the article and defense writers. there have been so many lies, half truths and spinning of facts with regard to this airplane that it defies description. either its intentional, or i’m seeing some of the most negligent reporting in the history of military procurement.

oh and super raptor. i’d be concerned but all you’re doing is spouting talking points. pat. take a look at what info you’re consuming and then get back to me.

There is nothing rational about that argument at all. The author sidesteps the actual question (what exactly would replace the F-35, and if it wasn’t replaced what would US tactical aviation look like in the future?) and totally avoids addressing why the C27 was cancelled (supposedly the C130 can do the same job, if that’s true, it seems like a pretty good reason) so he can tell us thousands of cutting-edge fighter jets will cost a lot more thirteen small transport aircraft (look out Sherlock Holmes!).

Of course he’s just asking questions (eyeroll).

Have you read other articles by Lt Col Ward: “Don’t Come to the Dark Side: Acquisition Lessons from a Galaxy Far, Far Away”, “Wanting It: Acquisition Lessons from Cheesy Cinema”, “Faster, Better, Cheaper Revisited: Program Management Lessons from NASA”, etc? He’s very good at what he does and his articles are relevant and to the point.

His short bio (from the first article cited) is: “Ward is a branch chief in the Science, Technology and Engineering Directorate, Office of the Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition (SAF/AQRT) . He holds degrees in systems engineering, electrical engineering, and engineering management. He is Level III certified in SPRDE,Llevel III in PM, and Level I in T&E and IT.”

I’m not a big F35 fan (getting close to getting on the fence actually) and have read Black Owls write up. He doesn’t make the case. You can find the back and forth details in the following story’s therads. Check out the threads before you decide to devote the time to the article. You’ll want your 15 min back.

“popularity contests.”

You hit the nail on the head there and that’s not popular to say based on the votes. Doesn’t make it any less true.

Are you kidding? To be honest I’m busy and I didn’t have time to continue the first discussion we had. The second time your arguments ran out of steam and you literally had nothing that could hold up to what I was saying. I made a good case as for why we can replace STOVL fighters with other aircraft and you simply couldn’t prove me wrong.

stick to your ground element. you are obviously way out of your league. F-35 has infinite cost & schedule growth and performance shortfall disadvantages. F-18 is a less risky way, more dependable COA to achieve greater improved operational utility.

SImple. The C-27 is viewed as an aircraft of foriegn origin. So was the VH-71. So was the EADS Tanker.…They all suffered the same fate. They all won a competition fairly with a product that was deemed by the service the best solution for the requirements and the taxpayer. From the day they each won, the domestic aircraft suplliers worked overtime to upend the programs through DoD leadership. The UH-72 maybe the only successful program of a foriegn origin aircraft that somehow slipped through the defenses of the domestics that survives the onslaught. BTW all these programs would have created thousands of NEW jobs within the US as opposed to simply just continuing the same payrolls. Free markets work well if they are allowed to work. Econ 101.

I want to put a negative thumbs down on this, but I can’t…because I have to agree. Procurement processes can cause costs to inflate…yet it is the government employees that suffer the “blame”. Private sector interests will always work to maximize profits…by NATURE. Government processes and laws are supposed to limit cost inflation…at least work towards this. Unfortunately, we all get the image of DMV in our heads every time we talk about public/government employees…in the case of federal personnel working in defense, audit, contracts, etc, this could not be more wrong. These are professionals and are not getting $$$ reward for work well done…they do it because it is the right thing to do.

I’ve been on both sides of the fence. there is blame to be shared for sure. however the government is infamous for wanting the impossible, not knowing how to specify what it wants, and constantly changing what it wants. The govt has the final authority on even what gets acquired in the first place. If they truly cared about cost & schedule, they would throttle back their appetetite for technology that is too risky to develop. you & Dfens are assuming that dragging out development costs is the contractor’s goal to maximize profits. This is not the case. Public traded companies want to maximize shareholder value. The market factors in the estimated future business (procurement & O&M) into the value of the company, and the stock is valued accordingly. When development programs get delayed and future production quantities get cut, the net worth & valuation suffer. also to clarify terminology, you mean acquisition processes, not procurement. Acquisition is development first, then procurement of a product that is the outcome of develompent. Most programs are languishing in development.

The C-27 is just one of the hundreds, if not thousands, of useful military projects that must be sacrificed for the F-35. The F-22 was one of them. The C-130 may also get traded away. The best thing I can say about the situation is that it could certainly ratchet down the arms race. It remains to be seen if potential adversaries take advantage of the situation. If their own superior designs are refined and put into production for use as intimidators against us, and as export cash cows, we are seriously disadvantaged. Alternatively, if they declare victory and save their own resources, wouldn’t that be good? At that point we can say the F-35 is a cold war relic and everyone will agree to stop after building 187. A lot of taxpayers money will have been wasted, but It will be the start of Utopia. Yes, that is the rosie scenario…Utopia is just around the corner, and the F-35 makes it all possible. All we need is confidence that political evil and international envy don’t exist. Ignore 6000 years of human strife. This time it will all come together. Are you with me then? Bet the ranch on the F-35. We absolutely need it for our future.

Umm… I wasn’t trying to specifically point blame towards anyone. I was merely expressing my anger over the fact that our dollars aren’t being used to buy the maximum capability they could afford… You guys did leave an interesting and educational set of comments though.

Your comment made me laugh and cry at the same time. Too funny, but too true.

Keep the C-27. Cancel the F-35. Reopen the F-22. Upgrade legacy force.

Overall the C-130J can do all the work a C-27J can so theirs no need for one. Hypothetically a F-13 can do more than the F16 so that’s why they push for it. This is all blame game politics some congressmen hate losing there districts pet projects and so are making a fuss now. Overall who cares the C-130 can do the job.

Weaponhead, you pretty much nailed the over-view of the F-35 Program flaws from it’s conception. Well said. Absolutely, it was a different era during the JSF competition, eg one which was also at the height of the stock market bubble era, where the mindset was pretty much; ‘let’s rev up industry to max RPM, take this baby to the Moon and do it with a flick of a switch! (And let someone else worry about any consequences down the road!)

Also important to emphasize is the point you noted about originally relying on a planned LARGER force of F-22 as F-15A-D replacements, to counter both emerging air-superiority threats and as a multi-mission capacity for potential high threat zone requirements (ie an F-117 capability replacement). As such, the JSF was Not designed to fulfill this requirement of countering future emerging air-superiority threats! Of course, it’s being re-marketed today as such by default, as the F-15A-D force was hardly replaced as was originally expected and required.

Uh yeah. You didn’t have time to respond the first time and the second time I didn’t “refute” your points.

Go back and reread the threads. I’m happy to let folks decide for themselves. Just trying to be helpful so they don’t waste their time.

Good grief, what sort of ‘lies, half truths and spinning of facts’ are there about this significantly delayed, flat out unaffordable and overall uncertain and speculative recapitalization program with very little if any Plan B alternatives in the pipeline?

Forget about the nitpicking over minor technical details which can lead to endless and senseless debates. Just focus on the core unsustainable and critical issues in plain sight!

It’s not about being a critic! You can still love the jet and be the last Fan standing, yet be a realist and see it for what it is and support the call for responsible policy making and contingencies.

I don’t get the “if not the F35, then what?”. Well, at this point “anything else” is a better option. Put the bird in the sky up against something else. If it gets waxed, ******* the POS.

Good point concerning shareholders. I may be characterizing in a way that places too much emphasis on profit to the point of intentionally milking production/development costs (at least when on govt dime). I am usually scorned for being harsh on defense (govt and contractors) in professional life…but, I have come to respect both for almost always doing the right thing. You are correct that govt/DoD has issue with demanding/expecting too much…likewise, I feel that contractors promise too much as well…Ultimately, I think that there is no plan B for the F35. I do not know if the F18/F15/F16 families of aircraft would be able to hold out for Gen 6 (and God forbid another acquisition debacle such as the F35 were to take place). In time, the F35A will make a fine replacement for the F16 and when she draws her first blood (Let it be Sukhoi), all will be forgiven.

Agree that the author didn’t suggest a replacement but there are other airplanes that can do the F35 mission (e.g. F22). Just because one airplane can do another’s mission doesn’t mean that’s a rational decision. B2’s can and have done CAS. It’s not the best platform for many reasons.

I think reading anything you type now from this moment on is a waist of time. We’re done here.

The f 35 is a waste of money. Why does the US need it? what other country(ies) have a fighter that is overwhelmingly better the the fighters we have? Are they our potential enemies? If you say China then why are we their best buyers of goods? The future enemy is more along the lines of Afghanistan, Iran etc., and unless things change what we have is going to be good enough. What we need are transports, both air and sea. Yet we still have to waste money on a un-needed weapons platform.

What’s the alternative? Critics have yet to propose one that adresses the current challenges.

Is that you, Hu Jintao? Quit surfin the net…you know it is illegal over there!

You mean “waste” of time.

I wish I had come to the same conclusion BEFORE reading your essay.

“unless things change…what we have is good enough”

Hmmm. Do things change? Yep. And with the lifecycle of military aircraft being several decades long, you basically have to assume that you will be stuck with whatever you purchased today as things change around you tomorrow. Which means you need to try to at least have a fall back position to cover all the potential threats, from WWIII to counter-insurgency to counter-terrorism. That’s what we pay the generals to figure out — how should we spend our money to best cover our projected military needs, given the full spectrum of potential future conflicts. Sure, there is politics and money involved, because politicians hold the purse strings (as they should). But I don’t see all that the generals see, so I’m in no position to claim that they are making the bad decisions. (Frankly, I doubt you are either.)

At last the F35 is one of the perfect examples of a bad planning because of an optimistic risk analysis. How teak a closer look to all US Programs how was started after the end of the cold war will see by nearly all of them the same basic problem they all are based on unrealistic and highly optimistic risk analysis. So for examples in the late nineties to the end of 2010 the US Politic and also even the Military has deny every real communing treat and focus all there resources on exotic but not really important or really dangerous treats like Terrorist or Pirates and the weapons there also created for such ridiculous threats. And as consequence the US Military has now MARPS how are unable to operate effectively in a real war also a much smaller Force of Heavy Brigades how can fight real Wars and the Air Force has a lot of Multibillion Drone programs from them now one is enable to face even an Air defense with the technique of the late World War 2 and the Navy Ships how are no Armed or even high see capable like the LCS.

And in the same time all treats for that the US Military and politic have no planed the last 10 to 15 Years for had become now reality or are in becoming reality. So the USA has as the F35 was started not consider what they will face a peer enemy like China or Russia but this is what happen now and they have also no consider what all there Could War Programs (like the F22) how there design for this Missions will killed by the political class based on the unrealistic risk analysis or the sheer refusal to reality. Now the F22, B2, the DDG1000, the Sea-wolf SSN and a lot more are dead and what remains (F35) is in trouble and not designed for the now needed missions (Deterrence, Real Wars, Missile Defense) but the worst is now what the USA has now also no longer time and Money to rethink is bad plans because what the force equipment are already overaged and to a large part useless against modern enemy Fighter, Air Defense Systems and Offensive Weapons.

There are two solutions now and both are not perfect and will cost a lot of money the first what I prefer is the termination of the entire F35 program in favor of a immediately restarting of the F22 line and the purchase of additional 500 to 700 of them over the next 15 years and this in combination with the purchase of 228 new F15SE and about 600–800 F16Block60 and 200–300 additional F18E/F plus the full funding of the X47C Program, the NGB and the start of a 6 Generation Fighter Program. This will cost more them the second solution what means simple to continuing with the F35 Program and hope for the best but the second solutions has the risk what you will never get the F35 fixed .

The Marines. And the concept of a Marine, are much bigger and better than having to depend on a faulty F-35 RICO-Statute / Ponzi scheme. Besides, they will be flying the Harrier til 2030. Probably cheaper to recreate that niche weapons system than depend on the Just So Failed.
I’m not convinced that trying to solve the ageing tac-air mess with the F-35 is the answer. Certainly not at any price. Curious how some Marines even think getting 2-seat Block II Super Hornets would be a useful move. I agree. I am curious about the “herd mentality” you speak of. That could include those that copy-paste the next press release about formation flying (as progress), rolling out BK-1 for the Brits with a first flight (just as the MOD is all wobbly with the B and C issue), and stating F-35s are now flying with “weapons”. Actually, Sol and I agree on many more things than we disagree. We just don’t agree on the F-35. Loyalty is a fine thing. So don’t be too harsh on him.

Best to prepare for F-35 failure and compose a plan to deal with it. As for the C-27; a great comparison of how USAF priorities are goofed up. They changed their mind on the C-27 because they claimed the C-130 could do the work fine.…. in Afghanistan. We are leaving that dud operation. What about other future war locations? Maybe when we get some real air power leaders that understand these things, we can have a credible air power roadmap, until then… more pain.

Are they the dulcit tones of Solomon Shorter I see above?

Sol, hopefully in the not too far off future you will come to realise what pretty much every thinking person whose career/livelihood doesn’t depend on the JSF knows — .…there is more that is wrong than is right with the JSF aircraft designs and the JSF Program, itself.

As for still asserting the JSF has greater range than the F-22, how about showing us the data and the facts that support your claim?

The author of the article is reporting military news stories…sounds like sensationalized drivel to me. Bashing one defense program after another here on the dodbuzz blog. Nothing of importance really…especially when policy is concerned. I mean come on.….the F35 program has been beaten with a log so many times its a wonder this blog has not fell down the krapper along with the F35. The reason why the Airfarce does not want the C27 is because in reality, the C130 can do the job just the same,haul in more, and be just as cheap to operate as the C27. Besides…if anyone had brains that reads this blog, go to AF​.mil and read about the SOF planes that are also used for airlift…and I am not talking about the C130 or the C27. So,in reality the AF has airlift covered and then some. If you want to gripe about airlift, gripe about the lack of C5’s instead…now there is a real problem…especially with the Army’s and Marines heavy has to be there items. As for the F35.…cancel the darn thing. Then see the F15, F16 aircraft start to fallfrom the skies…liter

Unfortunately the F-15 you mention that broke-up in flight was due to a manufacturer’s defect and not fatigue as per design requirements.

The main point about the C-27 is that USAFs poor leadership now has an established history of screwing up procurement programs. As for the C-130 v C-27. USAF stated specifically Afghanistan. Which is great if that is the only war we intend to fight for the next 30 years .….. as a tactical airlift requirement. Also don’t forget that the Army got duped on this whole deal.

One more point…The F35 program by now is too big to fail. And the sad part is, this is no alternative other than a out performed F18 super duper bumbble bee to get the job done. Sure, the AF can fly the F15 and F16 till the cows come home, but is not real fun to be scraping dead pilots from holes in the ground because of flying aircraft that is too worn out to fly, period…(ask the MO ANG pilot that crashed his F15 due to fatigue problems with the airframe)

Ok, here are just a few of MANY.

There is NO risk of penury by continuing the F-35, it represents <2.5% of the base DOD budget each year even in its MOST expensive year.

The VAST majority of the $233B in 2001 to $395B in 2011 cost increase is due to changes in HOW the cost is calculated rather than ACTUAL cost increase.

Yes there IS a official date by which the F-35 is expected to “deliver its first basic combat capability”. And the the program is in fact AHEAD of the current schedule!

I am sure LM, the JPO &/or the DOD will tell you.

The F-22 is no more/less an alternative to the F-35 than the F-35 in an alternative to the F-22.

Since you made the claim, please provide any evidence that ANY money that was to/would have gone to F-15 &/or F-16 maintenance &/or upkeep got shifted into the F-22 &/or F-35…

The F-15 & F-16 have been suffering from “age issues” because INSTEAD of replacing them with new aircraft when they reached the end of there designed airframe life, we extended their airframe life.

Ahead of its “current” schedule. Just not ahead of the last one, or the one before that. Or, the one before that.

The F-35 was NEVER sold as a cheap replacement for F-16, F/A-18 and AV-8B. It was conceived with the intent to be able to more than handle itself against FUTURE threats — ONLY the USAF was to ‘rely’ on the F-22 to rule the sky, ALL other customers (INCLUDING the USN & USMC) were to rely on the F-35. There is still plenty of commonality. No it was NEVER conceived so that you’d get 3 aircraft for nearly the price of one. Range & payload were & still are VERY important & the requirements for the F-35 EXCEED those of the aircraft they are replacing. The F-35 is & has always been a strike fighter, not a bomber.

Please name ANY ‘assumptions that started the F-35 program that are no longer true”.

Yes we should have gotten more F-22s than we have in ADDITION to the F-35, not instead of.

Yes we should have a long range strike aircraft from the carriers. That we don’t is the fault of CONGRESS refusing anything other than the F/A-18E/F, NOT the F-35, which is a F/A-18C/D replacement.

The F-35s are a BARGAIN for what they add to the mix. The F-35s are strike fighters, not bombers.

Once again you demostrate that you have no clue what you are talking about.

First sentence; wrong. The prime goal was to be affordable. LM even stacked on to that with PowerPoint showing the F-16 was the same price to acquire as an F-16 with 20pc less support needed (2007 Israeli brief). The second sentence; the JORD doesn’t seem to agree with you on that. Third sentence; true. But again (being Joint and all that) the F-22 is a joint resource. While all the other customers were to “rely” on the F-35 consider that, when originally asked about the JSF, USN wanted 2 engines, 2 aircrew and 2 engines. That is more Super Hornet than anything else. The compromised because STOVL drove the program. Unless you can make a 2 aircrew, 2 engine STOVL (good luck). Plenty of commonality as sold to the sheep years ago. With all the project management goof-ups. Not so much commonality now. — http://​goo​.gl/​A​V​T9N — Sorry; cousin parts don’t count. You may want to look back at how faulty a raft of items are on the jet before going into the Lockheed Martin marketing mode.

…F-35 was the same price to acquire as an F-16…

No the EADS tanker DID NOT win a competition fairly with a product that was deemed by the service the best solution for the requirements and the taxpayer. THOUSANDS of MORE jobs would have been lost with the EADS tanker — sorry there is NO WAY you can get away from that <58% (EADS tanker) vs >85% (Boeing tanker) US workshare.

NO military project has been sacrificed for the F-35.

What potential adversaries own superior designs?

So you want to spend MORE time AND money on a LESS capable force structure…

No the F-35 is NOT a waste of money. That you say so demonstrates that you have no clue what you are talking about.

Best to prepare for F-35 sucess. It is NOT failing.

The USAF changed its mind on the C-27 because Congress cut its budget & some things had to go.

Huh? There has yet to be 1 (one) alternative proposal to the stay-the-course catastrophic TACAIR recapitalization plan?

What alternative aviation websites have you perusing over the past 3–4 years??

This is perhaps the saddest commentary off all, not necessarily untrue or unfair, just sad. The USAF has gained a reputation for “conniving” procurements, carefully spun facts, and less than forthright positions, and now, even if dealing with hard and fast fiscal facts, it has lost its credibility and reasonable folks, inside and outside, expect the worst. Integrity is an earned attribute that can not be granted by any decree from on high. Hopefully, no matter what the fate of the C-27 or F-35 the service will recognize the value of the faith and respect of those whom it serves!

Our military procurement system promotes dishonesty. If you think anything is going to get better under the current system, don’t hold your breath.

Chaos: Your description of the current system is pretty accurate except that you do not recognize that the system works very, very, poorly (if it works at all.)

Damn spell check…

Solution — C-27 to Marines and or Army. F — 35 to the *hit can , reopen F-22, upgrade F-18’s, and get rid of the Air Farce’s procurement program. As for the F-22’s O2 problem — back to contract and give them 30 days to fix the problem or pay back all the costs. F-35 is short legged and with the refocusing on the Pacific there needs to be a more robust, two engine air craft. Maybe a super F-15. But of course this will not happen. LM has some sort of grip on the congressional budget makers. Also too many retired 06,7, etc are in bed with them. Feather thy own nest vs. what is good for the country. They might have the goods on a few hill lifers. Can some one tell me the operating costs for C-130’s vs. C-27’s. Another thought the Air Guard would be a good fit for the C-27’s.

If you read the articles on this website for any length of time you’ll learn that Dfens always blames everything on the contractors and never blames anyone else. It’s his 1 track mindset. In his world there’s never any problems with oversight by DoD civilians, no problems with Congressional oversight and no problems with requirements. It’s a very simple world.

Well, Dfens should go to gao​.gov and look at the audit reports the GAO has compiled (some of which I am an author to)…plenty of problems to go around! Thanks.

What’s really annoying about the C-27 is that the Army wanted it, the Air Farce claimed (stole?) it, and now the AF says it can’t afford it.
Something smells here…

Not to mention the fact that the Navy has always wanted a new air dominance bird to replace the super hornet, the F-35 isn’t supposed to be the only carrier bird. That one is just waiting for the 6th gen fighter competition. (Plenty of news online related to that.)

What would the Air Force use for transports if they got rid of C-27 and maybe the C-130’s? C-17’s can not fill in behind the many aircraft removed from transport duties. Along with this, WHY can’t the F-15, F-16, and FA-18 be retro fitted with the new generation of engines on the F-22 so they also have “super cruise”? With new upgraded wings and/or fuselage, these “legacy” aircraft should be able to remain on Active Duty for a very, very long time. We can do what is now being done, update all avionics as new technology comes on line. The F-35 is a non-starter, and only the people who came up with this plane want to continue manufacture. They do not want the “golden goose” (read — LOTS of OTHER PEOPLE’s money) to go dry on them.

agreed, it’s a complex problem with lots of problems all around.

It’s all politics nothing more, I retired in 2007 but went to the assembly line in Texas to see the JSF on the assembly line, I am old school, what is wrong with building new F-15’s? There is not an aircraft out there that has better capabilities and we don’t have to pay billions for new designed lawn darts. Living in lean times we need to spend smarter yet maintain air superiority. A new version of the F-15 will cost billons less and it is twin engine and can fly on one engine making it much more surviveable and you dont lose an aircraft when you have engine failure.

REALLY. Then why is Boeing already at the cost control ceiling on their tanker and the program is not going well? Don’t fool yourself, US OEM’s are subsudized as much as any foriegn company. Its just called “sole source” acquisition is the only difference.…… If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck.….

DoD civilians certainly have their issues, but I give them a break. Having been one, I know that status quo is they do not get listened to nor respected, and are asked to do the impossible by military officers and/or political appointees that demonstrate seagull leadership — come out of nowhere, make a lot of noise and crap, and then take off.

Lets look at this a different way. Lets make a ten lists and then let everyone decide for themselves the relevance of the current orthodoxy in defense reporting and the viability of current and future procurement programs.

All lists will be inclusive from the end of the Korean War to today.

1. All (aircraft procurement programs) funded.
2. All APP completed.
3. All APP cancelled.
4. All APP with cost over runs.
5. All APP without cost over runs.
6. All APP that had development problems.
7. All APP that did not have development problems.
8. All APP deemed successful in terms of post production performance.
9. All APP not deemed successful in terms of post production performance.
10. All APP that suffered congressional hearings.

Now, lets compare the ten lists and see if we can draw any conclusions about the F35. This same thing can be done with other major systems although some are more complicated to analyze and compare.

Suggestion: Pay particular to attention to the development and initial deployment histories of the F4 Phantom and A4 Skyhawk, both of which were used by more than one service and many foreign nations as well.

That we’ve spent 50B on the F-35 is no justification for spending another dollar. Anyone remember the TFX? The requirements of AF, Navy, and USMC aviation are just too different to make any joint fighter possible. Or at least a good plane. The F-35 program has all the appearance of a really bad program. We should can it. Too bad it would immediately turn into a campaign issue, as the B-1 did in the Carter/Reagan election. BTW, those who take such joy in bashing Carter should recall that he was a former Navy officer and a very solid thinker on defense procurement. (Wildly off the subject: Gov. Romney in his comment that “even Carter” would have gone after Bin Laden forgets that Carter launched the far more daring mission to rescue our embassy hostages in Teheran. He can hardly be blamed for the aircraft collision in the desert–caused by pilot error–that forced cancellation of that mission.)

Your analysis leaves out several critical factors.

The Marines have no mission for the C-27. They have no transports, their KC-130 mission is Organic inflight refueling, they are precluded from operating any airlift aircraft as that is the Air Forces mission.

No reasonable O2 fix can be guaranteed in 30 days, your demands are over simplistic and unrealistic.

The F15 airframe is land based, any Pacific capability has to be of necessity rooted in carrier/expeditionary capability in nature. No fighter can sustain needed payloads over a 4,000 mile plus round trip, even with inflight refueling.

The Air Force will always choose strategic systems funding over all else during times when the wish list must be paired and sacrifices made.

The C-27J belongs in the Army…Put in the Army National Guard to replace the C-23 Sherpa. The C-27J was originally an Army program for the ARNG. The Army Guard could use all 21.….Mostly paid for by the Army cancellation of the failed RH-66 Commanche and the saving harvest for other Army program..

You have not answered the question. I like to hear some good news. When will the buffeting issues and thermal management issues of the F-35 be solved. I assume you believe they are solvable. Enlighten me. By the way, here is my prediction. President Romney will freeze the F-35 program and will restart production of an upgraded F-22. Let me know what you are willing to bet on this ( I usually win)

I agree with MMC. We have the F-22. It is flying. Cancel the F-35. Restart the F-22 line and improve that aircraft. Keep the C-27 and upgrade the F-18. The first rule of investing is to know when to cut your losses.

Yes, the way officers come in and then go in just a year or two is part of the problem too. There are problems in all areas — politician, military officers, GS, military enlisted, contractor managers, contractor workers, and so on. But to always put the blame on 1 group is ridiculous.

Restart production of the F-22, there is your alternative.

I think this “Article in Foreign Policy Magazine” Sums it up pretty well ” The Jet That Ate the Pentagon “. It puts everything the Lt. Col. was trying to say with out him getting in to much trouble.


Really its a failure. It will never be bough in the numbers needed.

197mil for one F-35A.….……Thats the least expensive of what was to be a Cheap plane.….….…


We need to go back to the WW II procurement plans. The government defined what they needed. The companies designed and built a working prototype aircraft that had to work and meet the requirements within a specific time frame for evaluation. The winning company got a contract for so many aircraft at a set price. The prototypes were on the companies’ hook. If they didn’t win, they were out the money,and better luck next time. NO ongoing development costs to produce a non-working aircraft.

I had the opportunity to work on both these aircraft in the early phases, and with the F-22 it was the first program I worked on at Wright-Patterson AFB, as well as the last just before I retired. The F-22 was supposed to lead the way with the technology that would then be essentially off the shelf for the JSF/F-35. It was indeed intended to replace the F-16/F/A-18, and AV-8B because the F-22 avionics suite and engines were supposed low cost hand-me-downs for the JSF. Because of the extended development program of the F-22 and the fact that much of the avionics components of the F-22 became obsolescent as the groundwork for the F-35 was laid, it would up carrying the ball for its avionics suite. This led to all the cost overruns and schedule delays being experienced now.

As far as the best brains in the Pentagon making decisions, I played that game, mainly on the B-2, F-16, and B-1B and can assure you that many decisons are made out of political motives rather than best bang for the buck

Further, neither in-theater or CAS have ever been high on the USAF favorites list..

It appears that you are unaware that there is a generation 3.5 version of the F-15–semi-stealth with C, D and E capabilities based on the service package installed. It could stand in as a backup for the F-22 at a far lower per-unit cost. General Dynamics also had an experimental version of the F-16 early on called the “Cranked Arrow” that used canards and a delta wing that made it a heavy load carrier and an incredibly agile dogfighter. With only a relatively minor mod to split the tail and give it some cant, the F-16 could easily remain the top strike fighter in the AF. Again, at a fraction of the cost of an all-new airframe.

But really the problem isn’t with the AF–the F-22/F-35 packages can work very well. The problems lie more with the Navy and Marine versions of the F-35 which need far beefier airframes and bring out a completely different set of mission parameters. It is these two versions of the F-35 that are killing the budget and the Pentagon knows it. The problem is, there is no other airframe in the works that could replace the F-18/AV-8B aircraft.

Sure, airframes are being flown way beyond their design flight hours. That doesn’t stop Boeing/McDonnell from pulling the tooling out of storage and reactivating them. That doesn’t stop General Dynamics from doing the same for the F-16. I’m sure that even the necessary re-design work on either airframe would be a fraction of the cost we’ve so far seen wasted with the F-35.

Simple accounting is the reason the C-27J is “too expensive” next to the F-35 despite the F35’s higher overall program cost. The C-27J’s costs are front heavy and a greater proportion of it would have to be paid out sooner than the same proportion of the F-35. F-35 has become the Air Forces “all or nothing” plane, without the F-35 we aren’t just looking at having to refurbish F-16s but also A-10s. In that way keeping the F-35 program progressing at a steady pace results in not having to spend even more money in the short run.

The problem isn’t that the C-27J is too expensive, the problem is that they have a fixed budget and when you have a fixed budget money has to come from somewhere. I want to see the C-27J’s stay, but simply put something has to go… so do you cut tactical airlft or do cut tactical strike? Without the latter the first risks becoming a non-participant, so cutting the latter can be seen as a non-choice… leaving you only the option to cut the first.

What color is the sky in your world, pfcem?

Of course military projects have been sacrificed for the F-35. The budget is finite; every chosen program has opportunity costs. The largest program in decades has the largest opportunity costs. Most of what F-35 has supplanted is invisible, though, because those alternative programs never happened.

Hey, it could be worse — the Army killed off dozens of potentially valuable programs in order to waste a combined $50+ billion on FCS, Crusader, Comanche, JTRS GMR, ARH, Aerial Common Sensor, etc.

They just had a report on the building of the LAST F-22, so the number is like 175; HOWEVER they are grounded and pilots are asking for reassignment because they do not want to die due a Cluster Mess with the oxygen system. Give the A-10 and C-27 to US Army Aviation and be done with it. Someone with a rational brain had better do something about the F-35 or the next generation of Air Force pilots will be flying bi-planes.

Yep, that is about it. The Army wanted the short tactical airlift for their missions and for their jump school needs when the Air Force cried foul.…the Army cannot have fixed wing aircraft for traditional Air Force missions. The Air Force got it and now can’t afford it, so the USCG is in line to get the planes for their missions while the Army is sans a tactical airlifter no smaller than a Herc. I think the USCG is the ultimate winner in this contest. F-35 will be a neat plane to see fly, but for how much?

It is clear the technology needed to bring the JSF program to full IOC is currently beyond the capability of the manufacturer, LM. The USAF, USMC, and USN, along with our allies who are on the program continue to demand capabilities from the aircraft, when it is clear it has yet to meet even the basic requirements of a Gen. V fighter. The alternative is the F-22, even though it too still has problems with its OBOG system. Another alternative is more advanced models of the F-15, F-16, and F/A-18E/F. Each of these is fully capable now, and well into the future, and at a much lower cost.

With the nation’s debt problem increasing daily, even the DOD must face the reality of economics. Do we need a new fighter? Yes. But at what costs? What are the alternatives? I have already pointed out a few.

While fighters are needed to gain and maintane air superiority and supremancy, we do need tactical airlifters to support the grunts. Wars are won on the ground, and air and naval forces support that goal. They cannot do it alone. So the costs of the C-27J is so insignificant compared to the JSF cost, it shouldn’t even be a consideration. The only benefit to cancelling the C-27J program is the DOD can say, “we saved money”, but the haven’t even saved pennies on the dollar.

The F-15 manufacturing line is still open building F-15’s for our allies. The cost of bring up a new generation of the F-15 would be low and the Air Force could start replacing the aging fleet of F-15’s and F-16’s with these brand new F-15’s. The F-35 will continue with cost over run’s and the production rate will be cut just like the F-22. A brand new F-15 brought up to new standers seams to be our best bet.

It appears to me that a lot of people here would like to enter their 1987 Chevy into the 2013 Datona 500 and actually think they would be competitive. We used to replace our fighters in 15 years or less. Now, we’re expected to fly them for 50? Does anyone here actually understand the stresses these aircraft endure? I flew 10-year-old F-4 and F-105 aircraft. They were all patched up and modified many times adding lots of weight and drag until they would barely fly. Most of us ejected from at least one of them when it broke. I know from experience how that feels! Please don’t make our sons and daughters fly old deathtraps. Reduce the overstated requirements on the F-35 and build a cheaper version. It could easily be built 30% cheaper by eliminating some of the exotic capabilities. It would be lighter and perform better, too.


NOTE: Comments are limited to 2500 characters and spaces.

By commenting on this topic you agree to the terms and conditions of our User Agreement

AdChoices | Like us on , follow us on and join us on Google+
© 2015 Military Advantage
A Monster Company.