DOD is circling the wagons to keep the F-35 propped up in the declining Pentagon budget. Importantly, as noted by a prime Lockheed mouthpiece offering his thankfulness for it, GAO’s newest report on the F-35 offers a conclusion that the F-35 is on track for improvement–the data notwithstanding. In point of fact, what the GAO conclusion does show is that some long term negative–and management induced–trends have gone viral in the investigatory agency where I once worked. As a result, DOD has been allowed unseen influence on a GAO report. Skeptical? The latter half of a new piece at Foreign Policy explains.
Is there a government conspiracy to save the F-35?
BY WINSLOW WHEELER | MARCH 22, 2013
Until recently, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter had been having a pretty rough time.
In 2012, its estimated average “program acquisition unit cost” was reported to have doubled, from the $81 million per copy anticipated in 2001 to $161 million, flight tests revealed deficiencies in achieving the F-35’s modest performance requirements, and scheduled full-rate production was delayed to 2019.
The media is doing its usual vapid tour of the 10th “anniversary” of the American invasion of Iraq. Far better to consider how the nation permitted the disgrace to happen. Mike Lofgren cites three important lessons to learn.
For myself, I believe it most important to consider the domestic politics and careerist posturing that drives civilian (and military) leaders to beat the drums of war in order to manipulate political (and budgetary) decisions, or worse to simply advocate war.
Consider Mike’s lessons below as you read in the morning news articles of the current US B-52 exercises over the Korean peninsula and the hysteria of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in reacting to a historically minor budget correction. Given the nature of the North Korean regime, is this the time to bait them? Have the Joint Chiefs shown they are capable to dealing with budget events they have only had a year and a half to prepare for? Is there an American domestic political (and budgetary) content to the US escalation of events in Korea?
As you read Mike’s important column below, it is useful to think about such questions.
On the decennial of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the persons responsible have shown remarkably little guilt over launching an unprovoked war of aggression, even when the lamentable results might be expected to give one pause to rethink the enterprise. Marveling at the complacency about Iraq of America’s foreign policy elite as they are fawningly interviewed on the Sunday talk shows, columnist Alex Pareene says that “[p]eople who were integral in the decision to wage that war sat there and opined on what the United States should do about Iran and China and North Korea and no one laughed them out of the room. It was disgusting.” Disgusting, but hardly surprising here in the United States of Amnesia.
Are there any lessons to be drawn from the debacle? Here are three tentative conclusions:
Including stunning pilot comments about the aircraft’s survivability (such as “Aft visibility will get the pilot gunned [down] every time”), a new, unclassified DOD document on the F-35 is now available. It describes the performance of the F-35A and its support systems in initial training at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. Find the document at POGO’s website. Find my summary and analysis of the document below
The Air Force’s F-35A: Not Ready for Combat, Not Even Ready for Combat Training.
On February 15, 2013 the Department of Defense’s Director of Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT&E) sent a memorandum and accompanying evaluation report to Congress and the DOD hierarchy describing the performance of the F-35A and its support infrastructure at Eglin Air Force Base (FL). There, already skilled Air Force pilots are undergoing a basic syllabus of familiarization training with the aircraft. Not previously in the public domain, the unclassified DOT&E materials are available at the POGO website at http://pogoarchives.org/straus/ote-info-memo-20130215.pdf.
DOT&E’s report, titled “F-35A Joint Strike Fighter: Readiness for Training Operational Utility Evaluation,” reveals yet more disappointments on the status and performance of the F-35. The Operational Utility Evaluation (OUE) is particularly valuable as it focuses on the Air Force’s A model of the F-35 “Joint Strike Fighter.” Many in the political and think tank world have focused more on the Marine Corps B, or Short Take Off and Vertical Landing (STOVL), version or the Navy’s C model with its heavier structure and larger wings. While the B and C are even more expensive and lower in performance-on certain key performance dimensions-than the Air Force’s A model, this OUE (inadvertently) demonstrates that the A model is also flawed beyond redemption.
While the DOT&E paperwork includes an opening memo and an executive summary, they do not do justice to the detailed findings of the report. Specific issues are discussed below-much of it in quotations and showing the appropriate page number of the text of the evaluation.