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.
multirole aircraft........... kinda reminds me of walking into a k-mart... “By attempting to provide you with everything, they actually succeed at providing you with nothing”.....
Exactly. As Stalin correctly observed, quantity has a quality all its own.
We are moving in the direction of having only a handful of super whiz-bang planes in the USAF. Yeah, they're GREAT planes, but if just a few of them go down we are toast.
SCRAP IT! Jump to the next generation design, build more F-15SEs at 1/3 to 1/4 the cost, bolster them with F-22s built on contract by someone OTHER THAN Lockheed who are liars and couldn’t build a balsa model without cost overruns and that doesn’t asphyxiate the pilots.
A proper run of F-15SE and F-22 is nothing but a manufacturing process now. If you must have a air superiority fighter for the Navy, you don’t now and won’t with the F-35, fix the F-22 for the role. This has been conceived as workable. The F-15E has a confirmed record of being a very versatile, high performance truck that can still fight in and out from the target.
The Navy’s FA-18 program is going well and it seems to be a good airplane. Consider the builder... the old MD plant builds good airplanes. Boeing did themselves no favors over the tanker fraud but they still build good airplanes. Change the contracts, incentivize them and refuse delivery for anything that does not meet standards. The job will get done.
A good start would be about 10 new squadrons worth of each mark of the F-15SE and the F-22... 500 new airplanes that we desperately need. Our old ones are falling apart.
The scenario that will emerge is a ‘fighter/bomber’ shepherding a fleet of UAVs against a fleet of UAVs controlled from the target.
Oddly, yet again the B52 is a perfect candidate!
Is it impossible to fit the F-22 for Carrier operations?
Air combat going assymetrical is maybe something to take seriously.
If Japan launched 6,000 WWII Kamikaze Zeroes against a single current US carrier, what would happen?
(The House voted Wednesday) to stop funding for an alternative engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter a program Defense Secretary Robert Gates called 'unnecessary.' But his arm-twisting of Congress is far from finished. February 16, 2011
YUP! A 21st Century version of McNamara’s Folly — the multi-service F-111.
I don't know right offhand, but I was blasted a few years ago for saying the F-35 would end up costing as much as an F-22.
That reminds of the favorite saying of an old Crew Chief friend of mine: "The F-4 is proof positive that given enough thrust even a couch can fly"
Thanks for the boondoggle ping. I agree that we need more F-22’s — and A-10’s for close air support.
Close, but you give it too much credit. The design was a compromise from the beginning, there is simply no way any aircraft can perform multiple functions as well as a single purpose design.
It is slow, heavy, short-legged for air superiority.
It has limited range and payload for attack.
It is single engine, which is NOT what the navy wants, regardless of what the Admirals say now.
It's not VTOL as designed, has morphed into STOVL, and again has range and payload problems.
Those are problems with the original design, and production/real world problems are much worse than can be imagined.
It is a pig in a poke, and so much has already been invested in time and treasure that it is insanity to continue forward, and insanity to cancel it.
It takes huge Government to create huge problems.
Odd thing about the F22, when they are flying slow they play “tones”, they sound like a huge pipe organ, you can hear them for miles. WOOOOOOOOO WEEEEEEEEEEE WAAAAAAAAAA...
Real design error if you ask me. Must be horrendous for the pilots, its the oddest thing to hear from the ground.
There was only one competing model, the Boeing X-32, which lost a performance shootout.
The X-32 had the distinction of being one of the ugliest aircraft in recent times and, given the times (1999-2000) was given the nickname, "Monica." See below.
The poor aircraft was both fat and ugly with an open orifice that, ahem, only a Clinton could love.
The F-35 does have a piano aboard to fight pilot boredom on those long bombing missions. It can be played manually, or with a DVD. It is called the Wurlitzer Option.
The F-35 can perform close air support, carry 122 tons of smart bombs, simultaneously engage enemy fighters in low and high altitude dogfights, land on a carrier, on a highway near your home, on a high school baseball field or volleyball court, go from 0 to 1200mph in 6.3 seconds, get 40 mpg, Can take off and land vertically, as long as the next stop is a gas station, and at the same cost as 45 obsolescent, funky-looking, and really slow A-10s, or 20 of those F-16s that are so yesterday, is actually quite a bargain.
I know what you are thinking. "Can you afford this plane?" Of course, you can! As long as you are a semi-responsible foreign government you qualify for low-cost airplane loans, which can be forgiven if our government feels like it. But you ask, "What if the pilots don't play the piano?" This is a problem in foreign lands where pilots are often skilled bouzouki or gamelan players, but know bupkis from pianos. In that case, the foreign buyers would benefit from the Piano Lesson DVD which plays on the HUD. It is FREE when you order the Wurlitzer Option.
Stop by your F-35 Dealer today!
A lot of people knock this outstanding project's looks. But I say when Disney designs a plane, it's always a winner, whether used in combat, or as part of an exciting ride in Orlando.
There's a good case to be made for allowing Japanese co-production and Australian purchases. The Japanese need a replacement/augmentation of their F-15J's, and the Aussies have been waiting quietly for 10 years for us to get our poop in a group on the F-35, and we've failed to come through for them.
Other countries have options like the Eurofighter Typhoon and the navalized Rafale and F/A-18 and can get by without the F-35, but if you look at Japan and Australia's situation, you see the need there.
If the F-35 project does go down, it'll be our biggest program failure since .... well, ever. The Pogo failed, the Flying Wing failed, the predecessor of the Osprey failed in the 60's, and of course the XB-70 failed. But this will be the worst, if it does fail.
I wish I knew what was adding all the cost. I am not sure the people urging the program's termination have our best interests at heart, however. This article examines the interests vested in carrying the program forward -- well, how about a list of companies, governments, and NGO's vested in the other side of the question?