Like the autumn leaves, the myths about the F-35 stealth light bomber are finally falling. Now it's beginning to emerge that the F-35 may just be the warplane our potential adversaries want us to buy.
As Travis Sharp, an analyst with the Centre for a New American Security puts it, "There's a real risk that a lot of the high-tech investments are going toward things our adversaries want us to invest in, because they can neutralize them - and spend far less money to do so."
The thing is, there's never been a warplane quite like the F-35. Its systems use almost 9-million lines of computer code of which some, perhaps a lot, has already been hacked. Originally intended to be in operational service by now, the F-35 won't enter service with the U.S. until 2016 and, even then, isn't expected to complete operational testing until somewhere around 2019. That's right. Testing won't be finished until the airplane has already been in service for three years. Yes, this aerial horse is definitely behind the cart.
Not only is the F-35 incredibly complex, it's also hyper-expensive. You pay dearly for the latest and greatest. You pay in a lot of ways. You pay in limited numbers. The more something costs, the fewer of them you can afford to buy. You pay in the number of years you need to rely on the thing. The more it costs, the longer you'll have to wait before replacing it. When you buy the F-35, you're strapping that baby on for somewhere between three and five decades. You're gambling the farm on that warplane remaining viable for up to half a century. Oh yeah, good luck with that.
The F-35 is designed to hold its own against older airplanes. It hasn't been designed to defeat the next generation of warplanes our potential adversaries have under development. And it won't necessarily do too well against updated, older warplanes either.
The F-35 is a provocative weapons system, make no mistake about that. We're pointing it at the heads of already and increasingly advanced countries. the type that have sophisticated air defences the F-35 is designed to overwhelm. And, based on what we've already shown them and all that data, equipment and material they've filched, they think they've figured out how neutralize our threat - and, worse, do it on the cheap.
Once they manage to defeat the F-35's stealth technology and copy its electronic wizardry, they may be able to hand us our greatest strategic defeat in history, all without firing a shot. We'll have spent ourselves into impotence, so fiscally deep into the F-35 we won't be able to get out.
Are there alternatives? Plenty. As US Navy admiral Jonathan Greenert, Chief of Naval Operations, pointed out we might do far better focusing on advanced, long-range weaponry instead of focusing on hyper-expensive, perishable-technology warplanes to essentially do the same job.
Or we can be suckers.