F-35 Update March 2021
by David Archibald
8 March 2021
At a think tank event in Washington on March 6th, House Armed Services Committee chairman Rep. Adam Smith said with respect to the F-35 that he wants to “stop throwing money down that particular rathole”.
He also said “What does the F-35 give us? And is there a way to cut our losses? Is there a way to not keep spending that much money for such a low capability because, as you know, the sustainment costs are brutal.”
The reference to the low capability of the F-35 is due to its role in battle now being only to carry a couple of cruise missiles to the enemy’s defended zone, launch them and then run away. And that particular role can be performed by other aircraft such as the Loyal Wingman for 5% to 10% of the cost of the F-35.
The USAF needs a cheap-to-build and cheap-to-fly fighter to bulk up its forces. It won’t be the F-16, because upgrading the software on that aircraft is difficult.
The solution to the problem of the F-35 has always been the Gripen E from Saab in Sweden. The Gripen E is the same weight class as the F-16 so it will have a cost similar to the US$56 million of the F-16. It approaches the F-22 in combat effectiveness at about 25% of the price of the F-22. Saab separated the flight software from the weapons software so it can be easily upgraded.
We could and should build the Gripen E in Australia. Brazil is building theirs in-country.
One day the grinning loons who run the RAAF will have to face up to reality and get another aircraft. Indications are that Canada will be getting the Gripen E, though there has been no announcement yet.
David Archibald is the author of American Gripen: The Solution to the F-35 Nightmare.