F-35 Death Spiral?


StrategyPage has more on the stealthy fighter-bomber’s woes:

Meanwhile there are the seemingly endless delays. The manufacturer of the F-35 has assured the Department of Defense that the F-35 would begin entering service in 2015. At least the vertical take-off F-35B model will. The F-35B, which will replace the AV-8B, is a 27 ton aircraft that can carry six tons of weapons and is stealthy. In vertical takeoff mode the F-35B will carry about twice the weapons as the Harrier and have about twice the range (800 kilometers). The F-35 has been delayed many times in the last decade and there has even been talk of cancellation. Orders have already been cut and the manufacturer is under a lot of pressure to get the new stealth aircraft into service.

That solves the scheduling problems, at least on paper. But the increasing costs of theF-35 are scaring off foreign buyers. These users have noted that the F-35 costs 60 percent more (than the F-16, per flight hour) to operate. For European nations, with static or shrinking defense budgets and growing demands to help with peacekeeping operations, more expensive (to buy and operate) jet fighters just don’t fit in.


Foreign sales were supposed to drive down per-unit costs enough to make it an affordable replacement for the American fleet of F-16s. Lose exports and the per-unit price goes up high enough that even more foreign buyers might cancel on us. Then we’re left with too few planes or a busted budget — or possibly both.

Peacetime procurement always takes too long and costs to much, but our system is just plain broken.

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