By John Briggs
The Burlington Free Press on Monday sent a series of questions about the F-35 warplane to Vermont’s congressional delegation, Gov. Peter Shumlin and Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger.
They have been strong supporters of basing the F-35 in Burlington, and the congressional delegation and Shumlin issued a joint statement Friday reaffirming their support for the plane and saying it would be good both for the Vermont Air National Guard and for Vermont’s economy.
Last week, Pierre Sprey, a co-designer of the F-16 and A-10 warplanes told some 400 people at an F-35 meeting in Burlington that the F-35 is a “shockingly” bad aircraft which will perform poorly on all of its designated missions: air-to-air combat, bombing and close support of ground troops.
Sprey said the plane lacks maneuverability, will be easily detectable despite its stealth features, will be vulnerable to surface-to-air missiles on bombing missions, has a relatively small bombing payload compared to the F-16 and must fly too high and fast to be plausible as a close-support fighter-bomber.
On Friday, May 30, the Air Force released an update to its F-35 environmental impact statement indicating that if the F-35 is based at the airport more people than previously reported by the Air Force will fall within the area designated by the Federal Aviation Administration as “unsuitable” for housing.
The following questions from the Free Press emerge from Sprey’s comments and from the update to the Air Force study. The Free Press has specifically asked for individual responses rather than their usual joint comment.
- •Do you agree or disagree with Pierre Sprey’s assessment of the F-35? Which of its assigned roles will it perform adequately? Which role or roles will it be unable to perform adequately? What is the source of your information? Please be specific about your understanding of what the plane will and will not be able to do.
- •The F-35’s rapidly rising cost (it is now understood to be the most expensive weapons system in history) has caused concern not only in the United States but among some potential purchasers of the plane, including Canada, the Netherlands and Italy. Please explain why the cost of the F-35 program will not deprive the military of vital modernization in other areas?