October 1, 2008  

Flighty facts

To attackers of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program. With yawn-inducing, inside-the-Beltway predictability, those who sought to kill the F-22 have now turned their focus on to the Air Force’s next (and at the current Air Force program hit-to-kill ratio rate, maybe last) major program. For sure, the fledgling F-35 offers fodder for the fiscal watchdogs. Even program leaders fully admit that F-35 unit costs have increased 38 percent to $77 million since the contract was awarded in 2001. But the attacks are way out of line, and highly misleading, when they compare JSF’s performance on an apples-to-apples basis with legacy planes such as the A-10 and F-16. The F-35 is an extremely nontraditional program conceived on joint and coalition principles and requirements that neither existed nor were technologically feasible in the conception days of the F-16. Its prime operational requirement is to be able to go deep into a dense surface-to-air missile environment from any base. Combined with its stealth technologies, the F-35 becomes a game-changer. As healthy scrutiny of the F-35 heats up, all sides should stick to facts, not notions.