Monday, November 1, 2010

Kill it. Kill it with fire.

Courtesy of the Project on Government Oversight (and Bloomberg), the F-35 "Joint Strike Fighter" project is... like every other major defense spending project ever:

Defense Secretary Robert Gates is set to be briefed tomorrow by Pentagon officials on a review prepared by the F-35 program manager, Vice Admiral David Venlet, said the officials, who asked not to be identified because details aren’t public. Venlet’s review will disclose broad ranges of potential expense growth, they said. Software, engineering and flight difficulties are proving greater than expected, the officials said.

The slippage in the JSF’s timetable may be as much as one year for the Air Force and Navy versions and two to three years for development of the Marine Corps model capable of short takeoffs and landings, the officials said.

Obviously, I don't want to kill the JSF completely. It's a worthy project, and should continue to go forward. (And Gates should continue to whack people who fail at making it work.) I do, however, think the F-35B variant can die a fiery death. Not literally, I don't wish death upon test pilots. But the project should go away. Stop wasting spending money on a plane that's completely unnecessary. From an article in the Marine Corps Times:

“In the end, the Marines may not have a jump jet,” said James Hasik, a defense analyst in Virginia. “I’m not terribly convinced of the argument that the Marine Corps actually needs its own close-support arm that isn’t rotary driven.”
Winslow Wheeler, an analyst with the Center for Defense Information in Washington, agreed.
“How many times have you seen an AV-8B land next to a unit engaged in combat to talk to the commander and get insights on the close-air support mission?” Wheeler said. “I don’t think it’s ever happened.”

(The AV-8B is a Harrier "Jump-jet," which is the capability the F-35B would be replacing.) At some point, the defense budget is going to have to shrink. And this seems like a pretty good place to cut. But wait:

The Corps’ commitment to the aircraft is a key factor, said Bob Dunn, a retired Navy vice admiral who has watched it closely.
“When the Marines get dedicated to something, they are going to go for it — come hell or high water,” he said.

Yeah, sounds like a detailed cost/benefit analysis to me. I know the Marines already feel like they get screwed on funding, but this is a massive amount of money to sink into a weapons system that has no practical use. If the Marines need fixed-wing aircraft at all (and I'm not convinced they do), the carrier variant should be fine, without the STOVL capability that's causing lots and lots of problems.

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