F-35 could be cancelled or cut back in huge political fight in January and February. National Reviews urges Trump to Cancel F35

Mike Fredenburg at the National Review urges Trump to cancel the F35.

His arguments are
* negotiating a better price on incomplete, crippled fighters will not save taxpayers any money in the long run — because the prices being negotiated between Lockheed Martin and the Pentagon are prices designed to fool the public about the F-35’s true costs. Lockheed Martin and the Pentagon both know that any “discount” or price reduction negotiated in public will quickly be made up on the back-end
* fatal mistakes made during the conceptual design process well over 20 years ago, the F-35 will forever be crippled by intractable weight and heat issues that ensure that the program will never deliver a reliable, cost-effective fighter.
* on Wednesday, when Inside Defense exposed the fact that the Navy’s F-35C model has design defects that can cause pilots to suffer disorientation and severe pain when undergoing carrier catapult launches. As it stands, Navy pilots have determined the F-35C is not “operationally suitable” for carrier launches. New design changes to the F-35C will be required that could take years — and even our carriers may need to be modified to fix the problem. This issue has been known about for years, but until now it has been concealed from the public.
* The F-35’s severe, ongoing problems with weight have resulted in indefensible decisions affecting plane safety, reliability, and durability — the most egregious example being the removal of hundreds of pounds of equipment designed to keep pilots from dying in fiery explosions. Some of the safety equipment removed includes the fuel tank’s ballistic liner, critical fueldraulic fuses, the flammable coolant shut-off valve, and the dry bay fire-extinguishing unit. The unprecedented and pervasive presence of flammable hydraulic fluid, flammable coolants, and fuel throughout the plane makes the F-35 a flying tinderbox. But without these risky weight-reduction measures, the F-35 will not be able to meet even its bare-minimum contractually mandated range goals.
* A DOT&E memo said that on battlefield F-35s are not an asset. In fact, America’s new fighters will actually have to be protected in combat. Because of numerous performance deficiencies and limited weapons capacity, the so-called operationally capable F-35 will need support to locate and avoid threats, acquire targets, and engage enemy aircraft.
* In order to protect the F-35 from cancellation, the Pentagon has lowered key performance requirements and helped Lockheed cheat so that it could continue the charade that the F-35 will actually meet its bare-minimum threshold ranges.
* the published $32,000-per-flying-hour cost is a made-up number; its real cost per flying hour will likely be closer to the $62,000 of the much less complex F-22. Its truly dismal sustained-sortie-generation rate of one sortie (mission) every three or four days means that, as is the case with our F-22 pilots, F-35 pilots will only get a fraction of the 30 to 40 hours of stick-time (actual flying time) per month necessary to gain and maintain fighter-combat mastery.

The F-35 joint strike fighter program could be terminated after the Donald Trump administration takes office, the Air Force’s top civilian leader said Jan. 6. Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James indicated that the top Air Force, Navy and Marine brass will try to defend the program but the president can cancel or cutback the program.

Stealth not certain, especially with stolen stealth secrets

In 2015, Col Michael W. Pietrucha, USAF, wrote a 24 page article in Air and Space Power Journal,”The Comanche and the Albatross: About Our Neck Was Hung”. He argues why the F35 must be cancelled now.

The F35 is based on a belief that radar low observability will remain effective against future air defense threats. Although true for the F-117 against Iraq’s Kari system in 1991, stealthiness is unlikely to remain so against an adversary that has two decades to prepare for US stealth fighters, which have much higher infrared, visual, and emitter signatures than did the F-117.

Outside China and Russia, no massive threat from an advanced integrated air defense system exists. Moreover, China is a poor example of a threat to cite if someone is trying to justify a short-ranged fighter with limited payload flown from island bases within range of overwhelming missile attack. Losses of US aircraft have mainly been helicopters since the Vietnam war and fixed wing losses were not shotdown.

Only Russia and China can pose the kind of antiaccess, area denial (A2AD) environment that justifies a massive investment in stealth.

These facts make the risk calculation involved with prioritizing stealth over performance, range, and weapons loadout inherently suspect—and the F-35 might well be the first modern fighter to have substantially less performance than its predecessors.

Col Michael W. Pietrucha Proposal
• maintain a limited number of F-35As (those already purchased) as a replacement for the capabilities lost upon retirement of the F-117;
• create a modernized Tactical Air Force fleet consisting of a high-low mix of modernized legacy fighters, light attack aircraft, and multipurpose jet trainer / attack aircraft;
• recover some “sunk cost” of the F-35 program by using advanced systems to modernize older fighters, in effect fielding fifth-generation systems in fourth-generation airframes;
• restore the Air Force’s SEAD/EW (Suppression of Enemy Air. Defences – Electronic warfare) fighters and crews;
• expand the service’s global reach capabilities by providing deployable Tactical Air Force assets that can operate from short, rough airstrips on a logistical shoestring
• increase the number of absorbable cockpits to the point where the Air Force can augment the inventory of fighter/attack aviators to meet requirements;
• invest in affordable, exportable “light combat aircraft” derived from Air Education and Training Command’s T-X program;
• allow the Air Guard to maintain its position as the operational reserve and “relief valve” for experienced fighter/attack aviators while recapitalizing its portion of the CAF; and
• build a Tactical Air force that can meet the nation’s demands for air-power capabilities even in the face of increasing fuel costs and decreasing budget

The Gap would not be that big if the F35 were cancelled

It would take close to 2030 to field fixed F35s in large numbers.

China currently only has about 600 modern aircraft and is still many years from sorting out the ability to make competitive jet aircraft engines. Russia also has budget problems and will not ramp up its jet fighters to large numbers that would threaten the US.

SOURCES National Review, National defense magazine