The F35

For those not acquainted with the F-35 Fighter Jet, this expose in the NYT is a must-read (even if it is a year old). The F-35 will replace most fighter jets currently in service in the United States and many of its allies (including Australia).

The program has been a decades long sequence of delays, cost over-runs and planes unexpectedly catching fire. Total program cost is expected to be $1.5 trillion for the United States. Australia bought an additional 58 planes in 2014 for an upfront cost of $12 billion and another $12 billion in lifetime maintenance costs.

From the NYT’s piece:

The Pentagon had restricted the F-35 from flying near thunderstorms after flight tests revealed that its lightning-protection system was deficient.

The jet’s cutting-edge helmet display, which melds imagery from the F-35’s multiple cameras and sensors into a single picture, didn’t work properly, with pilots experiencing a jittery, delayed video feed.

In 2015, the program office found that the plane’s ejection seat could cause serious neck injuries to lightweight pilots, prompting the Air Force to ban pilots under 136 pounds from flight operations until a fix was implemented in 2016.

as recently as June [2019], at least 13 Category 1 deficiencies were still on the books. “Each is well understood, already resolved or on a near-term path to resolution,” Lockheed said in a statement.

In 2018, flying an F-35A cost about $44,000 per hour on average — about double the cost of operating the Navy’s Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet

If you were not worried about the Military Industrial Complex:

The company [Lockheed] was allowed to manage the test program and had the power, for example, to defer more challenging tests until later. In past programs, the government had controlled testing and had aimed to find any difficult, high-priority problems early, so they could be addressed as soon as possible.

It’s no accident that there are more than 1,500 suppliers for the F-35 program, and they’re spread out to almost every state,” he said. “That means that there’s basically a veto-proof constituency bloc on Capitol Hill for the F-35 program, so it becomes very difficult for members of Congress to really criticize this program.

This Bloomberg piece from September this year shows cost problems persist.

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