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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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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.

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