Following the recent grounding of the F-35B, the U.S. Marine Corps variant of the Joint Strike Fighter, there has been a lot of criticism of the program. But is cutting or scaling back the program in response to setbacks the best solution? With a fair and accurate assessment of the program and the proposed solutions to some of the problems it faces, the American Security Project blog has a great post from BGen. Stephen A. Cheney USMC (Ret.).
According to a his post in their Flashpoint Blog:
The JSF program is the perfect example of the need for a strategic approach to defense acquisitions. High-tech and super stealthy, the F-35 is designed to replace a wide range of aircraft, making it the plane of the future for the Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps.
The F-35 has had schedule delays and cost overruns, for which there are a number of causes. Chief among them is concurrency, the practice of moving forward with production before development and testing is complete. As a result, new planes may roll off the assembly line already in need of significant retrofitting – an unintended consequence of the plan to field the aircraft quickly and efficiently.
For many, the solution to the F-35’s rising costs and technical setbacks is to cut back or even cancel the program. This is the kind of knee-jerk reaction we must avoid. We must weigh consequences, costs, and alternative solutions, all in the light of strategic requirements rather than jumping to conclusions.
Buying fewer F-35s is a tempting solution to the affordability. But reducing the buy creates problems too. Buying fewer aircraft means each one costs more. And the more each plane costs, the more risky it becomes to use them.