F-22 and F-35, Not Mutually Exclusive
Some of the arguments posed in support of continued F-22 production, both in response to my posts and in the media, attack the F-35 and the F-35 program.
For example, one reader said, in part:
The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is no where near being proven. If you would do some serious research you would find that the F-35 program is all about spin and sophistry. Every claim about it being low cost, lethal, stealthy(of any worth) and sustainable, are just that: claims. With little proof to back up the big talk.
The F-35 was never prototyped. The two Joint Strike Fighter candidates in 2001 were not prototypes. They were smoke and mirrors that gave the appearance of a fighter aircraft with little to no war systems in them. They looked like a fighter enough to compete to get the mother of all gold plated defense contracts.
In discussing the Obama administration’s upcoming F-22 procurement decision, I have included the F-35 Lightning II in the discussion exactly for this reason: Rightly or wrongly—as I have stated before—it is one factor being cited by many, explicitly or implicitly, as one that is, or ought to be, included in the equation.
Beyond that, I believe that each of the two fighters has its own mission, roles and capabilities, cost, schedule, advantages and disadvantages, and justification that need to be looked at, yes, critically, comparatively and competitively, but not in a mutually exclusive fashion.
Some have voiced skepticism as to the schedule and reality of the F-35 program—”a pipe dream”.
As I mentioned before, Milcom Monitoring Report mentions as recently as one month ago that “Lockheed Martin’s F-35 production is on schedule and nearing its goal of a 2010 delivery to Eglin Air Force Base. Six F-35’s are now complete and 17 are in production.”
Apparently, two communities also believe that the schedule is real, as there are already both great expectations for the F-35s to arrive and a healthy debate over whether to host them or not:
In a February 6, Aviation Week article, “First F-35 Squadron Plans Detailed“:
The first three squadrons of F-35s – with at least 59 aircraft – will be formed at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., between 2010, when the first aircraft arrives, and mid-2013 when No. 60 is due.
Of the three training squadrons to be stood up, one will be U.S. Air Force with 24 conventional takeoff aircraft, one will be Marine Corps with 20 short-takeoff-and-vertical-landing aircraft and the last, with 15 aircraft, will belong to the Navy.
As part of a two-tier, environmental agreement – after the first 59 aircraft are in place – the Navy and the local community will consider increasing the number of F-35 training aircraft on the base to 113, according to Davis. Along with the integrated pilot school house, all JSF maintenance training will be conducted at Eglin.
The first Marine aircraft arrives in 2011. The fleet is expected to grow at the rate of about one per month. By 2014 the unit also will begin establishing its relationship with the Air Armament Center where the armed service develops its new kinetic and non-kinetic weapons and studies the introduction of new missions. For example, all initial F-35 Block 0.5 aircraft, because of their advanced electronically scanned array radars, will arrive capable of training for cruise-missile defense, Davis says.
If the number of training aircraft isn’t allowed to expand, the Corps will likely establish its own flight training center at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, S.C. The first F-35 operations base will be established by the Marines in 2013, Davis says.
There are to be at least 10 JSF training squadrons formed. The Pentagon is looking at another 156 installations to determine the remaining JSF bases for operations, additional training, depots and combined active-duty/Air National Guard/Reserve units. Production of the F-35 is scheduled to end in 2035.
And at The Pensacola News Journal they were talking concrete, dollars and cents, and numbers of people yesterday:
EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE — U.S. Air Force officials on Friday laid out the time line for the Joint Strike Fighter training program at Eglin Air Force Base.
Construction related to the move should start this fall.
Ferguson said nine construction projects — together worth about $170 million — are in the bidding process, and construction is expected to begin before October. Officials estimate total construction costs at about $250 million.
When it is fully operational, the primary training facility for F-35 aircrew and maintenance is expected to bring 113 aircraft and 4,000 military personnel and 6,000 dependents to the Okaloosa County base.
Finally, with respect to the Marines’ F-35s at Beaufort S.C., The Beaufort Gazette reports on February 6:
Beaufort’s mayor and City Council members say they haven’t heard enough about the military’s newest fighter jet to formally support basing it at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort.
The council declined to sign a resolution Tuesday in support of moving the Joint Strike Fighter, also known as the F-35 Lightning II, to MCAS Beaufort as proposed by the Defense Department.
The resolution, drafted by city staff based upon information from the Lowcountry Economic Network, touted MCAS Beaufort as “an ideal location for the Joint Strike Fighter,” as well as a home for future JSF training facilities. The Defense Department expects to divide 13 JSF squadrons between MCAS Beaufort and MCAS Cherry Point in North Carolina. The units include 10 operational squadrons, two pilot training squadrons and one reserve squadron.
The proposal to base the F-35 at MCAS Beaufort has garnered the support of local, state and federal leaders, including Gov. Mark Sanford and U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson.
Most concerning to council members was the resolution’s support for putting two pilot training squadrons at the air station.
If MCAS Beaufort became an F-35 pilot training center, the number of jets at MCAS Beaufort would decrease from 84 F-18 Hornets to about 40 F-35Bs, but the daily jet traffic at the air station likely would increase.
As I said, both great expectations and a healthy debate—as it should be.
F-35 Photo by Lockheed Martin