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  (Source: Lockheed Martin)
After ten years and billions invested some in the Senate want alternatives to F-35

It's well known that the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) has turned into the most costly weapons program in history for the armed forces. When complete, multiple branches of the armed forces will use the F-35 and it will be sold abroad to allies.

The problem for some in Washington is that the delays in delivering the aircraft are mounting, as are the costs to build and maintain the aircraft over its lifespan. The F-35 program has been going for ten years now and some in the Senate Armed Services Committee are now indicating it's time to start looking for a backup plan. Most will find little sense in considering an alternative to the F-35 when it is finally so close to completion.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said, "It seems to me [prudent that] we at least begin considering alternatives."

The reason some in the Senate want to start looking for alternatives is the report published last week showing the costs to maintain the F-35 through 2065 spiraling to $1 trillion. Top acquisition official Ashton Carter has maintained that the $1 trillion figure will be reduced when he completes a "should-cost" review of the F-35 in the next few months. Carter is aiming at a 20% to 50% reduction in that $1 trillion figure.

Christine Fox, Director of the Pentagon cost assessment and program evaluation office, is skeptical of the cost reduction goals.

Fox said, "O&S [operation and sustainment] is hard. Whether we can get it all the way down to legacy [O&S cost levels] is something that I in my office doubt.” Fox points to the cost of fuel being hard to reduce over the life of the aircraft.

Lockheed Martin's general manager for the F-35 program, Tom Burbage, says that the sustainment costs for the F-35 can’t be fairly compared to the costs of older aircraft. He says that the F-35 was developed on performance-based logistics plan that is different from legacy sustainment process. He also notes that the F-35 O&S estimates are susceptible to ground rules legacy aircraft are not bound to.

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Alternatives to the F-35
By rothiri on 5/23/2011 1:17:11 PM , Rating: 2
The F-35 had to be chosen in the first place, and as someone mention they wanted one aircraft for all branches. BTW - this "most expensive" in history - is that comparison in today's dollars for all programs? - otherwise the current program will almost always turn out to be the most expensive.

RE: Alternatives to the F-35
By Belard on 5/23/2011 1:37:32 PM , Rating: 2
Yep.... in consideration...

Would it be more expensive to have 3 different designs for 3 branches or 1.5 basic design for 3 branches.

The F35B (VTOL) is being considered for cancellation. The British already canceled their order of F35B and switched to F35C. Why? Costs.

Only the Marines will be using the B-type, but is it really needed? Costs vs value? A VTOL fighter is handy, because it can land pretty much anywhere, which is why the Marines want and need it. Helicopters are easier to work in such environments.

It was the B-type that effected the overall designed of the F35 and caused delays and more costs.

What alternatives are there? Start from scratch?
Only thing realistic is to continue building new F15, F16, F18 and A10s. Their designs are still top of the line, for 30~40 year old tech.

PS: I still don't see how the F35 is supposed to "replace" the A10.

RE: Alternatives to the F-35
By erikstarcher on 5/23/2011 1:54:47 PM , Rating: 4
Nothing can replace the A-10. Just keep refurbing the old ones. That Warthog is a beast.

RE: Alternatives to the F-35
By shadowamazon on 5/23/2011 2:12:41 PM , Rating: 2
No need for the stealth neither when your enemy can see and hear you coming. Leave the A-10 Alone.

RE: Alternatives to the F-35
By chiadog on 5/23/2011 6:33:01 PM , Rating: 2
The plane fills such a unique role that I cannot fathom how the brasses think they can ever replace with expensive* F35s. A10s are as close as we ever gotten to a flying tank. Keep those old birds flying!

*I wanted to say fragile too, but can't make that claim yet. Then again, every plane is fragile compared to the ol' warthog.

RE: Alternatives to the F-35
By 91TTZ on 5/23/2011 3:29:26 PM , Rating: 1
Another thing to keep in mind is that the US Navy is heavily investing on smaller helicopter carriers like the Wasp class and the upcoming America class.

These ships can only carry helicopters and STOL aircraft like the Harrier. An F-18 or F-35C won't be able to take off or land from these ships. If you cancel the F-35B, then what about the ships that are planned that depend on these aircraft?

RE: Alternatives to the F-35
By mcnabney on 5/23/2011 3:50:47 PM , Rating: 3
I guess we will have to get by with a dozen carriers.

Seriously, we can't afford to buy something to exactly fill each contingency. If that means we won't have VTOL assets, oh well. We have carriers, hundreds of forward bases, and tankers. Someone should have thought of this before wasting money on a niche function for an attack plane.

RE: Alternatives to the F-35
By 91TTZ on 5/24/2011 11:53:02 AM , Rating: 2
On the contrary, I don't think the problem is that they decided to build a new line of useful small carriers that need STOL aircraft, I think the problem is that people should have thought of this when they decided that one aircraft design can replace various specialized aircraft such as the A-10, the F-16, the Harrier, etc.

It's like trying to design one tool that can replace a pipe wrench, a hammer, and needle nose pliers. You're forced to add such complication and make such serious compromises that the final result is expensive and less than optimal for any task. They could have saved a lot of money by designing much cheaper, specialized aircraft to fill these roles.

RE: Alternatives to the F-35
By DougF on 5/23/2011 4:54:32 PM , Rating: 2
It's going to be interesting to see what the fix will be to keep the carrier decks from melting under the F-35Bs during VTOL operations...

RE: Alternatives to the F-35
By Azsen on 5/24/2011 2:08:25 AM , Rating: 2
I have a feeling that the America Class is exactly what is used in Battlefield 2. Has the F-35Bs, AH-1Z Vipers and MH-60S Knighthawks.

By inperfectdarkness on 5/25/2011 8:15:38 PM , Rating: 2
what mccain doesn't account for is that if you scrap the program & look at alternatives; you're stuck with existing tech. you can't scrap a program of this magnitude (a decade+ in R&D) and then start a new one from scratch and expect to save any $$$.

so realistically, the choice here is between keeping existing technology fighters for the next ~50 years...or push forward with f-35's.

now i don't know about you, but i'm not comfortable with our prospects of air-superiority in the next 50 years if we're going to keep using airframe designs that will be 80 years old at that point. maybe that works for heavies--but not fighters.

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