It’s been a while since we checked in with the F-35, the new strike-fighter also known as the Flying Swiss Army Knife, and a gigantic lemon from which no lemonade ever can be made. The money pit that is the F-35 program has now grown so deep that it is very possible that some of the money tossed into it is now turning up in Shanghai. The latest glitch finds us in a situation in which the plane won’t be able to carry its state-of-the-art ordnance for another seven years, at least.
The delay in getting the SDBII onto the F-35 will reduce the aircraft’s ability to provide close-air support to ground troops. It plays a role in the debate over the aircraft’s ability to adequately fulfill the mission of the A-10 Warthog if Air Force officials are allowed by Congress to retire the close-air-support aircraft. Air Force leaders renewed their intent to retire the A-10 by 2019 in February with its budget proposal. Officials said the Air Force needs to transfer resources being used to support the A-10 over to the development of the Joint Strike Fighter. Air Force leaders have said the F-35 will be one of many aircraft that will backfill the A-10. The JSF office has already discovered that the SDB II does not fit onto the F-35B — the Marine Corps variant — without modifications to the aircraft’s weapons bay. The Pentagon is not in a rush to make those changes before the F-35B reaches initial operating capability this year because the weapon won’t work until the right software package is installed.
In 2013, the cost overrun for this flightless turkey already was $7.4 billion. The price has only gone up proportionately with every new piece of evidence that the whole program is a ghastly waste. It should be in the front of the mind of every citizen every time that citizen hits a pothole on a federal highway, or crosses a rickety bridge, or sees a pipeline leak all over the beanfields. Barney Frank calls this kind of brain-dead spending “military Keynesianism.” Isaiah, on the other hand, refers to something called “the feast of fat things.” The F-35 is the main course.