We Just Got Shafted On The F-35
by David Archibald
16 November 2018
Daily on Defense has reported that:
BIG F-35 BUY: Lockheed Martin has been awarded a $22.7 billion contract for 255 F-35 aircraft for both the U.S. and its international partners. Significantly, the contract commits to combine Lots 12, 13 and 14 for international sales. The buy includes 106 F-35s for the U.S. military, 89 F-35s for international partners, 60 F-35s for foreign military sales customers.
So the next contracted production run will produce 106 aircraft for the US military and 149 aircraft for its allies, including us. The US military is prohibited by legislation from buying weapons that have yet to pass operational testing on a multi-year contract. The F-35 has yet to pass operational testing and would have to get waivers to achieve that, so they could only sign up for Lot 12. But they have signed the foreign customers up for Lots 13 and 14 as well as 12.
The first indication that something fishy was going on was a couple of years ago, in the annual report of the Director of Operational Test and Evaluation. The report started talking about the economic order quantity of F-35 aircraft, without stating what that number was. It seems it is about 500 aircraft. Presumably Lockheed Martin was promised that it would produce at least 500 aircraft before the programme was cancelled. As at June 2018 Lockheed had produced 300 F-35s. So this order will get them over the line by getting the foreign customers to take most of the production, well in excess of the proportion they are supposed to take over the projected total production run.
The F-35 may be one of the reasons that the Deep State in the US holds President Trump in contempt. During the presidential campaign Trump had a negative view of the F-35, reflecting what his staff were telling him — that it is a dog. Then in January 2017 Trump had a meeting at Mar-a-Lago with Marilyn Hewson, the CEO of Lockheed Martin. She earned her US$43 million annual salary during that meeting. Before it the Trump campaign didn’t have a nominee for the position of Secretary of the Air Force. A week later it was announced that a Lockheed Martin agent, Heather Wilson, was going to be the nominee for that position. Lockheed Martin had illegally retained Heather Wilson at Sandia Labs and had to repay close to US$0.5 million to Uncle Sam. So Heather Wilson owes Lockheed Martin. And now she stops the F-35 from getting negative reports.
The Deep State sees all this. They know that Lockheed Martin is selling shoddy goods and that Trump was so easily suckered into praising the F-35. Thus they think he is a simpleton.
There has been an interesting development in that the Secretary of Defense, Mattis, has announced a requirement that USAF aircraft will have to get to 80% availability within a year. Currently they are well short of that level, with only 55% of F-35s being able to undertake a mission at any one time and only 49% of F-22s able to do so. And he wants this to be achieved without spending any more money. Some of the problems of these aircraft can’t be fixed by throwing money at them.
It therefore appears that Mattis is stupid in making a command that is essentially wishful thinking. Or is it a ploy? Perhaps a ploy along the lines that the F-35, not being able to get to 80% availability and thus being useless, will be dropped from inventory and production terminated? But Mattis hasn’t made any intelligent decisions yet — in the wars that the US is fighting, weapons systems, or anything else. And he is a supporter of global warming and the whole globalism agenda. He is a very political animal, and thus spends more time being seen talking to troops than making sure they have the right weapons.
Lockheed Martin will get to produce its minimum economic quantity of the F-35, and the US military will minimise the damage to itself in Lockheed getting to that point. But Australia will be left without any fighter aircraft able to go up against late model Flankers. We are handing over billions of dollars for some hangar queens, and then will have to start over again. This is an existential threat, with China preparing for war with most of its neighbors.
It is rumored that the reason the US military is so sanguine about the F-35 is that it has a proper fighter aircraft coming out of the USAF black program. Australia needs to hedge its bets and also start getting a fighter that is effective and that we can afford to operate.
David Archibald is the author of American Gripen: The Solution to the F-35 Nightmare.