Wednesday, August 08, 2012

What Keeps the F-35 Airborne?

If you follow the international news on the F-35 it appears Lockheed has made it through the rough patch and now has the controversial warplane flying straight and level.

Although the F-35 is over budget (grossly), overdue and underperforming and remains beset by serious technical problems, the Pentagon and America's allies are still lining up to buy it.

Stealth, it seems, is all the rage.   It overcomes all the F-35's flaws in limited range, meagre payload, and sub-par speed, climb rate and maneuverability.   Yet even American defence planners admit the stealth advantage is a "perishable" technology that may be obsolete within just five years.   So, why pay such an enormous penalty premium out of tight defence budgets for a warplane that may be obsolete before it reaches your hangars?

What has made Britain, Norway, South Korea, Japan and Israel commit to the F-35 while even its short-term viability is clouded?   Why are the Canadian Forces so obsessed with getting the F-35?  By all indications, this is a political issue, one that trumps defence questions every time.

The Brits say that shelling out for the F-35 will strengthen military ties with the United States.   The same reasoning has been attributed to Canadian defence planners.   Everybody, it seems, wants to be America's military BFF and the F-35 is the price of admission.

Lockheed's F-35 programme has produced a sub-prime warplane that is simply too big to fail.  Lockheed Martin is America's largest defence contractor in a land where biggest is always best.  Lockheed took a body blow when the Obama White House axed the F-22 stealth fighter (the '35 is a light bomber, not a fighter) in mid-stream.   It is said to need big sales of the F-35 to stay healthy.  So the U.S. is calling in the markers, twisting arms when required, and turning the F-35 into one of those "you're either with us or against us" deals.

We live in a world today where the Emperor never has any clothes and nobody ever says a goddamned word about it.

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