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F-35A JSF: Not Even Second Place...
Air Power Australia - Australia's Independent Defence Think Tank

Air Power Australia NOTAM

   13th February, 2010

Peter Goon, BEng (Mech), FTE (USNTPS),
Head of Test and Evaluation, Air Power Australia

Contacts: Peter Goon
Carlo Kopp

Mob: 0419-806-476 Mob: 0437-478-224

(Imagery via WhiteHouse.gov, DVIC, Sukhoi JSC).

In his address to the Nation, the US Forces Commander in Chief declared:

“Well I do not accept second-place for the United States of America.”

State of the Union Address, January 2010

When it comes to America's defense policy and her ability to maintain air superiority if not air dominance, the US Secretary of Defense has obviously not read the memo. Thus, the challenges for this Presidential declaration of intent are twofold.

Firstly, the current anti-access and area denial capabilities of non-American origin that already exist in the marketplace will relegate the United States of America to second place in the air power stakes.
Machines like the Russian Sukhoi Su-35S Flanker1, which is specifically intended for export and is not ‘your Father’s Flanker’, assure this outcome, particularly when interoperating with the contemporary integrated air defense systems (IADS), equipped with S-300PMU2 Favorit /  S-400 Triumf Surface to Air Missiles.
Secondly, with America becoming its own peer threat2 through naive if not ill considered and misled decisions like shutting down F-22A Raptor production at 187 aircraft, and putting all of its tactical air needs into one basket - the just so flawed JSF Program3 – then not accepting second place becomes a logic euphemism for saying that third and fourth place, or no place at all, are okay.

As to why the term JSF actually stands for ‘just-so-flawed’ and ‘just-so-failed’, one only has to study the form guide to see the knobble-ing by artisans of 'a total indifference to reality'4 at work and how the teachings of conventional wisdom5 have been ignored.

For instance, the JSF has about as much chance of being a Fifth Generation Fighter6 as the present Commander in Chief has of becoming the 46th President of the United States of America. Just as the US Constitution and US Law preclude the latter, there are the Laws of Engineering, Physics, Commerce and Common Sense that prohibit the JSF from ever being anything other than the misadventure it is.

This misadventure is now replete with spiraling cost increases, the figures looking like international telephone numbers on a cost base that resembles the galactic equivalent thereof; with almost weekly announcements of further schedule delays in plans that seem to be forever changing; and, failures to deliver on promises, particularly those marketed to the Australian people by senior US and Australian defense officials back in 2001/02.

Just who was it who said the JSF was affordable at “around forty million dollars per aircraft”?

However, these traits of misadventure are all now moot and for one simple, undeniable and self evident fact.

The advent of the Russian PAK-FA T-507 , the next true Fifth Generation Fighter, designed specifically to occupy the same territory as the F-22A Raptor and its far less capable siblings, the JSFs, has set in stone what many believe was achieved with the coming of its predecessor, the Sukhoi Su-35S Flanker.

That is, the JSF has now been made totally irrelevant, strategically as well as tactically, and will not be competitive, either in the air or in the marketplace.

The long evolving design pedigree of the PAK-FA T-50 has resulted in an aircraft that will be able to do things that no Western design is capable of doing. This is a game changer, a sure fire certainty in the air power stakes.

The only American aircraft that has any credible chance of being made to be competitive is the F-22A Raptor.

However, that chap who has yet to read the memo, has yet to also realize the error of his ways, though the fog would appear to be lifting and the painful truth that comes from realizing you have been duped is starting to make its presence felt.

Now, the simple question is: Which would be the more costly economically as well as politically – defending the fact that a mistake has been made and needs to be corrected, quickly, that is, “evidence based policy making” as our Prime Minister is apt to say; or, trying to defend your nation with something that can’t even make it to first base, let alone into second place?

Air Power Australia is built on the great Australian heritage of punching above one’s weight while looking out and caring for one’s friends (a.k.a. “mate-ship”) and the earnest Australian belief in ‘a fair go’, as well as calling things as we see them, a.k.a. ‘straight talking’.

In keeping with these traditions, everyone should have the chance to admit their mistakes; then given the opportunity to fix them.

So it should be for the US Secretary of Defence and the just so flawed JSF Program. However, if Bob Gates does not have the wisdom and grit to do what is right and what is best, then the Commander-in-Chief should take over stewardship of this misadventure and scratch this knobbled and hobbled nag and all the rent seeking jockeys and punters and dopers that have sat astride it for so long.

As the Hon Robert Gates said recently when he sacked the very honest, honorable and straight talking MajGen David ‘Duncan’ Heinz, “. . when things go wrong, people will be held accountable”.

Air Power Australia Website - http://www.ausairpower.net/
Air Power Australia Research and Analysis - http://www.ausairpower.net/research.html

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