Skip to comments."Flying Piano" Costs Pentagon $1.5 Trillion
Posted on 04/30/2012 5:15:58 AM PDT by Kaslin
The Pentagon is about to waste $1.5 trillion, 38% of entire defense budget for a "virtual flying piano". That may sound preposterous, and it is. Unfortunately, it is also true.
Foreign Policy Magazine discusses the sad saga of The Jet That Ate the Pentagon.
This month, we learned that the Pentagon has increased the price tag for the F-35 by another $289 million -- just the latest in a long string of cost increases -- and that the program is expected to account for a whopping 38 percent of Pentagon procurement for defense programs, assuming its cost will grow no more.
How bad is it? A review of the F-35's cost, schedule, and performance -- three essential measures of any Pentagon program -- shows the problems are fundamental and still growing.
Although the plane was originally billed as a low-cost solution, major cost increases have plagued the program throughout the last decade. Last year, Pentagon leadership told Congress the acquisition price had increased another 16 percent, from $328.3 billion to $379.4 billion for the 2,457 aircraft to be bought. Not to worry, however -- they pledged to finally reverse the growth.
The result? This February, the price increased another 4 percent to $395.7 billion and then even further in April. Don't expect the cost overruns to end there: The test program is only 20 percent complete, the Government Accountability Office has reported, and the toughest tests are yet to come. Overall, the program's cost has grown 75 percent from its original 2001 estimate of $226.5 billion -- and that was for a larger buy of 2,866 aircraft.
The total program unit cost for each individual F-35, now at $161 million, is only a temporary plateau. Expect yet another increase in early 2013, when a new round of budget restrictions is sure to hit the Pentagon, and the F-35 will take more hits in the form of reducing the numbers to be bought, thereby increasing the unit cost of each plane.
A final note on expense: The F-35 will actually cost multiples of the $395.7 billion cited above. That is the current estimate only to acquire it, not the full life-cycle cost to operate it. The current appraisal for operations and support is $1.1 trillion -- making for a grand total of $1.5 trillion, or more than the annual GDP of Spain. And that estimate is wildly optimistic: It assumes the F-35 will only be 42 percent more expensive to operate than an F-16, but the F-35 is much more complex.
The F-35 isn't only expensive -- it's way behind schedule. The first plan was to have an initial batch of F-35s available for combat in 2010. Then first deployment was to be 2012. More recently, the military services have said the deployment date is "to be determined." A new target date of 2019 has been informally suggested in testimony -- almost 10 years late. What Happened?
You can actually blame president Clinton for this debacle. You can also blame every president since Clinton for stupid decisions upon stupid decisions and for not scrapping the program. The sad saga continues ...
The design was born in the late 1980s in the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the Pentagon agency that has earned an undeserved reputation for astute innovation. It emerged as a proposal for a very short takeoff and vertical-landing aircraft (known as "STOVL") that would also be supersonic. This required an airframe design that -- simultaneously -- wanted to be short, even stumpy, and single-engine (STOVL), and also sleek, long, and with lots of excess power, usually with twin engines.
President Bill Clinton's Pentagon bogged down the already compromised design concept further by adding the requirement that it should be a multirole aircraft -- both an air-to-air fighter and a bomber. This required more difficult tradeoffs between agility and low weight, and the characteristics of an airframe optimized to carry heavy loads. Clinton-era officials also layered on "stealth," imposing additional aerodynamic shape requirements and maintenance-intensive skin coatings to reduce radar reflections. They also added two separate weapons bays, which increase permanent weight and drag, to hide onboard missiles and bombs from radars. On top of all that, they made it multiservice, requiring still more tradeoffs to accommodate more differing, but exacting, needs of the Air Force, Marine Corps, and Navy.
Finally, again during the Clinton administration, the advocates composed a highly "concurrent" acquisition strategy. That meant hundreds of copies of the F-35 would be produced, and the financial and political commitments would be made, before the test results showed just what was being bought.
This grotesquely unpromising plan has already resulted in multitudes of problems -- and 80 percent of the flight testing remains. A virtual flying piano, the F-35 lacks the F-16's agility in the air-to-air mode and the F-15E's range and payload in the bombing mode, and it can't even begin to compare to the A-10 at low-altitude close air support for troops engaged in combat. Worse yet, it won't be able to get into the air as often to perform any mission -- or just as importantly, to train pilots -- because its complexity prolongs maintenance and limits availability.The Dustbin Awaits
Foreign Policy Magazine arrives at a rational conclusion: "There is only one thing to do with the F-35: Junk it. America's air forces deserve a much better aircraft, and the taxpayers deserve a much cheaper one. The dustbin awaits."
Who supports the program?
Defense contractors are at the top of the list. For example, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, BAE Systems, and Pratt & Whitney support the F-35.
Please consider this Lockheed Martin Propaganda.
Establishing air superiority in todays complex global security climate requires the unprecedented capabilities and versatility that only the F-35 Lightning II can offer.
And the F-35s strong global partnership and broad industrial base ensures affordability through economies of scale while delivering thousands of technology sector jobs around the world.
Visit our partners
Pratt & Whitney To show you what incredible liars the defense industry has, Lockheed Martin has the gall to claim "economies of scale".
Senator John McCain Supports the Boondoggle
Senator John McCain wants F-35 training in Arizona at Luke Air Force Base.
McCain was presented with the Wing Coin and Chairmans Award by Brig. Gen. Kurt Neubauer, 56th Fighter Wing Commander, and Charley Freericks, Chairman of Fighter Country Partnerships board of directors. The award was given in recognition of McCain being a champion of Luke during his years of public service.
Neubauer thanked McCain for speaking at the gathering of more than 250 Fighter Country Partnership members and guests at the annual meeting. He noted the 27,000 sorties, 35,000 hours of flight, the training of 350 new pilots and 400 crew chiefs that took place at Luke in 2009. He told the crowd that Luke trains 95 percent of all the fighter pilots for the Air Force, and has deployed 600 down range to 17 different countries.Spirit of Idaho
The Spirit of Idaho organization hopes for training mission in Idaho.
Idaho citizens are second to none in their enthusiastic support for the men and women of our Armed Forces and for their military missions. Hosting the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter would be a great way to continue that tradition while helping to secure the future of Mountain Home Air Force Base and Gowen Field. Thats to say nothing of the thousands of great jobs and economic opportunities that having the F-35s here would create. C.L. "BUTCH" OTTER, GOVERNORGreed, Graft, Public Unions
In general, states where defense contractors are located, states that will house or train the pilots want the jobs support the F-35. Those states, and politicians in those states do not give a rat's ass about how inept or costly the program is.
The greed, graft, and waste are bad enough as it is. However, no amount of greed, gall, and waste is so great that unions will be satisfied with it.
Please consider Lockheed F-35 workers ready for long strike, union says
Unionized workers on strike against Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT.N) over healthcare benefits and pensions are prepared for a long work stoppage, a top union official said on Tuesday as the company said it would be able to keep operations running.
Nearly 3,650 union workers walked off the job on Monday at the Fort Worth, Texas, plant where Lockheed builds the new F-35 fighter plane and at two military bases where it is tested.
Paul Black, president of the local chapter of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM), said three earlier strikes in 1984, 2000 and 2003 lasted from two to three weeks, and union leaders have warned workers the current dispute could take longer to settle.
Workers in the union voted overwhelmingly on Sunday to hit the picket line rather than accept the company's "best and final offer," which called for an end to the defined benefits pension that current workers receive and a switch to a retirement account similar to a 401(k).The F-35 program deserves to be scrapped because of cost overruns, inept design specs, and poor test results. Yet 3,650 union ingrates were arrogant enough to walk off the job demanding still more money to build this boondoggle.
Every last one of them deserves to lose their job permanently. Let's hope this is the final straw that kills the program.
This plane may well have outlived the technological cycle where it may have made sense.
What is there for a replacement for F-35 if it is dropped?
the FA-18 should have a long life ahead of it. I think the F-16 is still being produced. What was the F-35’s competitor? Of course folks will say: “why produce it, it lost the competition.”
And it is past time to restart the F-22 production line, although it is an air superority fighter, we’ll need more of them.
As a pianist, I’m bound to say this is rather an insult to my instrument.
How disappointing—I thought I was going to read about actual pianos that fly while you play them. Now THAT would be worth the expense.
Each service would get a core model enhanced with elements specific to their needs ~ Army would have fore and aft mounted artillery pieces, the Navy would need two engines ~ one for "on board" tasks and the other to be used as a plug-in module to supplement the main steam system on ships of the line.
The Marines, though, would have both a fore an aft engine, with 1 artillery piece, a full-time "live aboard' company with bayonets at the ready lining the flatcars ~ and would burn wood ~ a proven and reliable energy source.
Army and Navy would, of course, take the big jump into the more risky coal fired variants.
And do not sell the Raptor to ANYBODY other than US forces.
http://www.english.illinois.edu/maps/ww1/images/08.jpg ~ almost forgot, the Kaiser’s High Command actually moved ahead with these concepts ~
A good article. I’ve long had the feeling that the F-35 was a basically good initial design that has been compromised by being asked to do too many things. No single design can do everything, and efforts to break that rule usually end up with a mediocre plane that does nothing particularly well, and/or a project that ends up costing far, far more than it was ever supposed to.
It's all going to aerospace union members.
Why not have bought a lot more of them and a lot of F-16s, A-10s and F-18s for ground pounding?
Five minutes of analysis would have been enough to determine that this program was going to be a disaster.
A plane can’t be STOVL and Long Range and Stealth and Supersonic and High Payload and Agile and Fight.
If you need STOVL, you trade off speed, range, payload and agility, because the vertical thrust components are going to be too much to carry on a on a fast agile fighter. The needs of supersonic travel and STOVL are simply incompatible.
F-111, they never learn.
Why not have bought a lot more of them and a lot of F-16s, A-10s and F-18s for ground pounding?
I too have asked that question a number of times. The problem as I see it is that all of the services try to make their equipment multi-role do everything items. What they end up with nearly everytime is a something that doesn’t do any of them in an outstanding manner.
The Air Force does it with their Aircraft all of the time. The Navy does it with their ships.
Why? Well I certainly don’t know why but I suspect it is a matter of dollars available for a project and once a project does make it through the approval process everyone piles on and adds their own “special” requirements and you end up with an Elephant which all who are familiar with the process know was originally designed as a mouse.
That's what I was thinking. More F-22s for escort and air superiority. Then you can bring in new-build F-18s and F-16s to put ordnance on target.
Yes, I get that a multi-role can, by definition, do it all. That they don't need a huge strike package etc. However, as others have pointed out they will never be the absolute best at any one mission. There is always some form of compromise. Why not send in the absolute best air-to-air system? Don't just control the airspace over the target, dominate it. Why send in something that has merely ok payload and range? Why not send in something carrying enough ordnance to get the job done in one trip, no questions asked.
A real danger is that some country that has enough industrial base to make cheap cars will start mass producing thousands of cheap UAVs, with the idea of an air armada overpowering their enemies’ small handful of ultra high tech aircraft.
A high tech fighter can engage six enemy simultaneously, but then it is out of weapons. What happens when it faces six hundred enemy? By the time it can land and rearm, the drones have destroyed its airbase.
The best use for such expendable UAVs would be as “buzz bombs”, with primitive guidance to make them relatively invulnerable to ECM. Just a 1,000lb bomb with an engine, fuel tank, crude “fly by wire” guidance and a simple low tech computer brain to tell it to make any course corrections. If the brain is fried, no problem, it just continues on its hard programmed course, with a little loss of accuracy of its 1,000lb bomb.
Others could carry a short range air-to-air missile, to throw a barrage at the enemy high tech aircraft. Out of a dozen such missiles thrown at you at once, somebody is bound to get lucky.
Ah, the last time we had a technological goat rope was under McNamara (the “genius” behind the Edsel and the World Bank).
The F-111...a do all for the USAF and Navy.
The Navy rightly rejected it and the USAF put up with it as a bomber (sort of) for many years.
It wasn’t really a bad plane...but it was trying to be an “everything”...with predictable results.
Why? Well I certainly dont know why ...
Because Congress ends up saying "you can have only X number ships or planes." The services end up saying "If we can only have X, we need it to do A, B, C, and D."
If they could have four times as many ships or planes, then they can have one to do A, another to do B, etc.
You do have a point there. When you think about it does make sense especially in a peace time era. In War though that sort of thing gets ignored and purpose built becomes the norm rather than a do-it-all platform.