As alluded to in other posts , the President Elect has had a lot to say about many subjects but there is one that is causing undercurrents of dissent amongst the military and defence contractors.
He wants to ‘scrap’the F35 and will ask Boeing to produce a ‘Super’ F18. This reminds of other governments scrapping large projects, and then buying in something else years later when they realise they needed it after all. Need I say ‘Nimrod” and ‘Rivet Joint’ in the same sentence? Like our esteemed (no, not really) Tory government who scrapped the Nimrod MRA4 because of ‘cost overruns’ and extended development time, then five years later; bought an even older airframe (Nimrod Vs B707) to replace the Dimsod after leaving our shores unprotected for a considerable period; Trump says he wants to scrap the trillion dollar F35 and replace it with an airframe from the 70’s. As the website Foxtrot Alpha said:
The problem with wanting to go ahead and start saving money on the F-35 now is that, for the most part, the time to speak up was 20 years ago. Much of the trail of its bloated cost can be found in its tortured development, which itself was borne out of a deeply strange requirement. The one F-35 platform was supposed to replace a bountiful variety of planes, ranging from the fast and light F-16 Viper, to the hovering AV-8B Harrier II, to the massively armoured flying gun known as the A-10 Warthog.
So it seems they have a handle on what Trump is asking for. Of course to scrap the F35 now would be complete folly, especially as it has been ordered and partnered by 10 or more other countries besides the States, and Lockheed claim that ‘5000’ units will be ordered worldwide, which in anyone’s order book is a lot of hooley. One other side of international sales which hasn’t been taken into consideration is that the Department of Defense has stated that computer codes for the repair of the many the computer controlled equipments in the F35 would not be released to third parties, and that all such repairs would be carried out in US. This is in accordance with the ITAR codes which stipulate that any item of defence equipment sold abroad can not have any of its internal circuits available in workshop manuals for use by ‘foreign nationals’. This is because the US is maniacal about such information getting in to the wrong hands like the Russians or Chinese. It even affected the old Harrier fleet, in that ANY component which contained anything made or developed in the US, is subject to ITAR regulations. So, for example a British made component like a circuit board with for example a resistor on it that was made in the US; the whole board is subject to ITAR despite it being British made. This made it very awkward for the military and Defence Contractors who could get fined thousands of dollars for infringing ITAR. ITAR stands for International Traffic in Arms Regulations incidentally. So, the whole F35 program could be in jeopardy if 2nd tier repair organisations aren’t allowed to repair US sourced kit.
Back to Don and his fanciful ideas; it’s been stated by defense experts that the F18 would ‘never’ be able to upgraded enough to be a contender to compete with the F35s capabilities. Scrapping would cost the US economy, and any other country involved in its development and purchase a lot of angst, and also leave them without air cover for many years until an alternative can be introduced, which judging by the 20 year gestation of the F35 could leave many countries in a parlous position.
For better or worse the F35 HAS to go ahead and get into service for the sake of 1) employment in all the countries involved, 2) the horrendous cost of a replacement and most importantly 3) the lack of combat aircraft to protect ourselves.