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posted by janrinok on Monday June 02 2014, @11:36AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the buddy-can-you-spare-me-a-dime? dept.

The US military's F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft is proving to be a pain in the neck in more ways than one. Not only did the Pentagon spend almost $400 billion to buy 2,400 aircraft - about twice as much as it cost to put a man on the moon - the F-35 program is 7 years behind schedule and $163 billion over budget. This at a time when cuts in the defense budget are forcing the Pentagon to shrink the size of the military. CBS 60 Minutes took a closer look at the troubled fighter plane a few months back, but their rebroadcast on Sunday evening seems like as good a reason as any to revisit one of the biggest ongoing budget debacles in U.S. military memory. David Martin gets an inside look at what makes the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter the most expensive weapons system in history.

Related Stories

F-35s Continue to Have Problems, Acquisition Costs Increase 37 comments

Testing Director says the expensive F-35s are not combat-ready, unreliable, and components need redesign

Overall fleet-wide monthly availability rates remain around 50 percent, a condition that has existed with no significant improvement since October 2014, despite the increasing number of new aircraft. One notable trend is an increase in the percentage of the fleet that cannot fly while awaiting replacement parts – indicated by the Not Mission Capable due to Supply rate.

[...] Total acquisition costs for Lockheed Martin Corp.'s next-generation fighter may rise about 7 percent to $406.5 billion, according to figures in a document known as a Selected Acquisition Report. That's a reversal after several years of estimates that had declined to $379 billion recently from a previous high of $398.5 billion in early 2014.

$122 billion has been spent on the F35 program up until the end of 2017. $10-15 billion will be spent each year through 2022. This is detailed in a 100 page F-35 spending summary report.

FY17 DOD PROGRAMS: F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF)

Related: The F-35 Fighter Plane Is Even More of a Mess Than You Thought
The F-35: A Gold-Plated Turkey
Flawed and Potentially Deadly F-35 Fighters Won't be Ready Before 2019
Lockheed Martin Negotiating $37 Billion F-35 Deal
Does China's J-20 Rival Other Stealth Fighters?


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  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 02 2014, @12:09PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 02 2014, @12:09PM (#50167)

    I wonder if it would be more cost-effective to buy everyone in the Air Force a new custom Ford F-250 with a 12" body lift and 48" tires instead. Maybe that will satisfy their under-endowment complexes and we can stop pissing away money on an over-priced airplane with no enemy.

    • (Score: 3, Funny) by jimshatt on Monday June 02 2014, @12:15PM

      by jimshatt (978) on Monday June 02 2014, @12:15PM (#50169) Journal
      But at this cost, we'll make sure we have an enemy.
      • (Score: 2) by zocalo on Monday June 02 2014, @02:16PM

        by zocalo (302) on Monday June 02 2014, @02:16PM (#50217)
        Please tell me it's going to be the bankers that loaned all the money for the planes.

        Pretty please?





        It's going to be drug smugglers and terrorists again, isn't it?
        --
        UNIX? They're not even circumcised! Savages!
        • (Score: 2) by Phoenix666 on Monday June 02 2014, @02:40PM

          by Phoenix666 (552) Subscriber Badge on Monday June 02 2014, @02:40PM (#50228) Journal

          And when can we expect airstrikes on their mansions in Westchester and "beach cottages" in the Hamptons? Can they do precision strikes on their gated communities within urban areas? Can the weapons in their package penetrate your standard panic room armor? Do they have air-to-ship missiles that can take out yachts?

          This is the real set of requirements for the next generation of fighter jets. Or perhaps the next generation of DIY drones built by a bunch of pissed off geeks. Either works for me.

          --
          Washington DC delenda est.
        • (Score: 3, Funny) by isostatic on Monday June 02 2014, @04:56PM

          by isostatic (365) on Monday June 02 2014, @04:56PM (#50293) Journal

          It's going to be drug smugglers and terrorists again, isn't it?

          No, it won't be the bankers

    • (Score: 3, Funny) by Sir Garlon on Monday June 02 2014, @12:35PM

      by Sir Garlon (1264) on Monday June 02 2014, @12:35PM (#50176)

      <sarcasm> Don't knock the F-35! The entire program may cost 10x more than the Harvard University endowment, but keep in mind that no F-35 has ever been shot down or failed to accomplish a combat mission!</sarcasm>

      (That's because no F-35 has ever been flown on a combat mission.)

      --
      [Sir Garlon] is the marvellest knight that is now living, for he destroyeth many good knights, for he goeth invisible.
      • (Score: 3, Interesting) by NCommander on Monday June 02 2014, @01:38PM

        by NCommander (2) Subscriber Badge <mcasadevall@soylentnews.org> on Monday June 02 2014, @01:38PM (#50203) Homepage Journal

        You say this in jest, but if memory serves, the F-22 had a similiar record because no one wanted to commit something THAT expensive to active fighting. Extremely powerful aircraft, but almost never utilitized in areas where it could be shotdown.

        --
        Still always moving
        • (Score: 4, Insightful) by Sir Garlon on Monday June 02 2014, @02:45PM

          by Sir Garlon (1264) on Monday June 02 2014, @02:45PM (#50233)

          So the reason we have this aircraft is so it might be useful someday in a combat mission ... if we ever have a combat mission that cheaper aircraft can't do ... which we don't because we plan all the missions so they can be done by cheaper aircraft ... and that works fine ... as long as the cost overruns from the expensive aircraft don't lead to budget cuts that ground the cheaper aircraft that actually does stuff.

          *brain implodes*

          --
          [Sir Garlon] is the marvellest knight that is now living, for he destroyeth many good knights, for he goeth invisible.
          • (Score: 2) by NCommander on Monday June 02 2014, @04:54PM

            by NCommander (2) Subscriber Badge <mcasadevall@soylentnews.org> on Monday June 02 2014, @04:54PM (#50292) Homepage Journal

            Incidently, I feel like a claim like this should be backed up. I don't remember where I originally read it (it was quite possibly in an actual newspaper), but I found this article on ABC News [go.com] which backs up the fact the F-22 has never been used in combat despite being in service for 5 years when the article was written (2011).

            --
            Still always moving
            • (Score: 2) by VLM on Monday June 02 2014, @08:30PM

              by VLM (445) on Monday June 02 2014, @08:30PM (#50394)

              You can read about it on wikipedia, but to save you the time, its an air superiority fighter and we've not been getting into battles with other air forces in quite awhile so they have approximately nothing to shoot down. There is a squadron seemingly permanently in the persian gulf which continuously harasses the Iranians ancient F-4 aircraft, but intercepting and following around and generally being pests toward each other isn't "real combat", although sooner or later someone's going to literally bump into someone else and cause an international incident. Those things happen. Other than the Iranians, there's no one to mess with.

              The block 3.1 first flew in '09 and added a really crappy air to ground capability (well, arguably about as good as my grandpa's B-24, it has less payload than the B-24 but more electronics than his B-24 had, so it probably comes out about equal ...), this is probably the origin of the waste of money commentary. So you can use an air superiority fighter as a crappy bomber, but its going to have (seriously) about 1/200th the payload of a B2 while only being about 1/10th the cost of a B-2, so thats a pretty dumb idea if there's any way to task a B-2 to do the job. Also I don't think block 3.1 has all weather air to ground, so its only useful for good weather. Basically emergency use, like if NK decides to invade SK as a last ditch effort we might have to have everything that can carry a bomb up there doin' something, however uselessly. Before block 3.1 first flight in '09 I don't think they had any air to ground capability at all. So whatever ABC news story is pretty silly because its not been in service for 5 years as of '11, as of '11 the very first F22 ever to have A2G capability had flown less than 2 years ago... and its probably all secret which planes and how many have been upgraded from 3.0 to 3.1 so its quite possible that a A2G capable F22 has not yet deployed to a combat area.

              Although adding an "emergency" A2G capability to the plane is intelligent from a military perspective, why add an emergency capability for free, its really dumb from a PR perspective because the usual suspects focus on the useless vestigal A2G feature like laser beams, as though its significant or deeply symbolic and meaningful. Which it certainly isn't.

              To some extent the reason why its the best plane in the world at shooting down other planes is because that's really all its good at doing. Not multi-role at all. Not a strategic bomber, not CAS, just shoots down other planes, like crazy. Its very "unix philosopy" make a tool that does one thing, one thing only, and does it excellently. Its opponents get all wound up about it not having an embedded mp3 player and so on all windows philosophy, but thats just not what it is.

    • (Score: 5, Funny) by tangomargarine on Monday June 02 2014, @02:37PM

      by tangomargarine (667) on Monday June 02 2014, @02:37PM (#50226)

      Call it a "special edition" Fnord F-9001 and give them a few patriotic bumperstickers. Now we're talking!

      --
      "Is that really true?" "I just spent the last hour telling you to think for yourself! Didn't you hear anything I said?"
      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 03 2014, @02:15AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 03 2014, @02:15AM (#50493)

        That would be the stealth edition, wouldn't it?

    • (Score: 2) by mcgrew on Monday June 02 2014, @07:14PM

      by mcgrew (701) <publish@mcgrewbooks.com> on Monday June 02 2014, @07:14PM (#50371) Homepage Journal

      How did that idiotic comment get modded up? As if F-150s will take the place of airplanes?

      New military aircraft are always like that. When I was in the USAF the C5-As were stationed where I was, and they were brand new and suffered from all sorts of problems; landing gear not going down, engines falling off, system failures. They eventually got the bugs worked out and afaik those aircraft are still in service 40 years later.

      And "no enemies?" Take off those rose-colored glasses, kid. And don't forget, "speak softly and carry a big stick."

      --
      Free Martian whores! [mcgrewbooks.com]
      • (Score: 3, Insightful) by nitehawk214 on Monday June 02 2014, @09:14PM

        by nitehawk214 (1304) on Monday June 02 2014, @09:14PM (#50410)

        Since the F-22 and F-35 will likely never be used in combat since they are too valuable to risk; an F-150 will be just as effective for a faction of the cost.

        --
        "Don't you ever miss the days when you used to be nostalgic?" -Loiosh
        • (Score: 2) by mcgrew on Tuesday June 03 2014, @03:36PM

          by mcgrew (701) <publish@mcgrewbooks.com> on Tuesday June 03 2014, @03:36PM (#50660) Homepage Journal

          You're talking about the US military, with bombs that cost millions apiece. A million bucks for one bomb! No equipment is too valuable for the US military to risk.

          --
          Free Martian whores! [mcgrewbooks.com]
          • (Score: 2) by nitehawk214 on Wednesday June 04 2014, @03:10PM

            by nitehawk214 (1304) on Wednesday June 04 2014, @03:10PM (#51124)

            The problem is the newer, expensive, high tech equipment actually performs worse in situations where you are going to get hit occasionally. Close air support with random AA guns firing up at you. The guns are already firing blind most of the time, so stealth doesn't help as much. Better to send an big ugly flying tank like the A-10. They keep flying when the do get hit because there is no sensitive electronics to harm.

            --
            "Don't you ever miss the days when you used to be nostalgic?" -Loiosh
  • (Score: 4, Interesting) by MostCynical on Monday June 02 2014, @12:21PM

    by MostCynical (2589) on Monday June 02 2014, @12:21PM (#50172) Journal

    Australia will buy 58 of these (plus maintneance contracts)
    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-04-23/australia-to-buy-58-more-joint-strike-fighters/5405236 [abc.net.au]
    http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/australia-to-buy-58-joint-strike-fighters-20140422-zqxvr.html [smh.com.au]

    Australia has therefore committed to buy planes with a 2220km (1380mi) range, when the closest possibe threat (Indonesia) is 2940km (1825mi) away.

    They can provide air support for the M1A1 tanks that were aslo bought from thre US (second hand, though)
    Austerity. New taxes. More defence toys.

    --
    “I've learned from experience that asking politely never works unless you have the upper hand.” Daisuke Aramaki, GIS:SAC
    • (Score: 4, Insightful) by Dunbal on Monday June 02 2014, @12:53PM

      by Dunbal (3515) on Monday June 02 2014, @12:53PM (#50181)

      "Australia has therefore committed to buy planes with a 2220km (1380mi) range, when the closest possibe threat (Indonesia) is 2940km (1825mi) away."

      The military is for use against your own civilian population. Have you not been paying attention? (Libya, Syria, Ukraine).

      • (Score: 3, Interesting) by tangomargarine on Monday June 02 2014, @02:29PM

        by tangomargarine (667) on Monday June 02 2014, @02:29PM (#50221)

        Do they have any aircraft carriers?

        --
        "Is that really true?" "I just spent the last hour telling you to think for yourself! Didn't you hear anything I said?"
        • (Score: 2) by c0lo on Monday June 02 2014, @02:57PM

          by c0lo (156) Subscriber Badge on Monday June 02 2014, @02:57PM (#50237) Journal
          I'm pretty sure US mil-ind complex would be willing to sell them some if the price is right.
          --
          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoFiw2jMy-0
        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 02 2014, @03:24PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 02 2014, @03:24PM (#50252)

          Can the F-35 land on a carrier?

          • (Score: 2) by Angry Jesus on Monday June 02 2014, @03:32PM

            by Angry Jesus (182) on Monday June 02 2014, @03:32PM (#50257)

            > Can the F-35 land on a carrier?

            Yes

            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=agwKHeumcto [youtube.com]

            • (Score: 4, Insightful) by frojack on Monday June 02 2014, @04:30PM

              by frojack (1554) Subscriber Badge on Monday June 02 2014, @04:30PM (#50276) Journal

              In fact, this is one of the problems with the F35 design.

              Instead of building a custom aircraft for the Air Force, and a different aircraft for the Navy, and yet a different aircraft for the dense European airspace, they tried to do it all in one airframe with slightly different bolt on gear.

              Lesson learned. A separate airplane for each theater is likely going to be cheaper. If you need a follow on for the F/A18, let bids for one, and let the bidders decide which airframe they want to offer. Don't require it also be flyable by the Air Force, salable to Australia or suitable for operation in Norway.

              --
              No, you are mistaken. I've always had this sig.
        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 02 2014, @03:30PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 02 2014, @03:30PM (#50254)
        • (Score: 1) by axsdenied on Monday June 02 2014, @04:30PM

          by axsdenied (384) on Monday June 02 2014, @04:30PM (#50278)

          They are all too busy pushing back the asylum seeker boats :-)

    • (Score: 5, Insightful) by quacking duck on Monday June 02 2014, @01:25PM

      by quacking duck (1395) on Monday June 02 2014, @01:25PM (#50192)

      Canada's ruling Conservatives also doubled-down on this mess a year or two ago, despite the fact that a single-engine fighter is inappropriate for patrolling the vast and mostly empty great white north. No one denies that our aging CF-18s need a replacement, but we need fighters that have a chance to make it down in one piece if one engine fails.

      The Super Hornet, while not the latest-generation fighter, is still "modern" enough for our needs. Even if Prime Minister Harper tries fulfilling some fantasy about taking on Russia directly in some far north dick-waving contest, it still makes more sense to go with a Super Hornet: based on cost alone, we could buy two Super Hornets for every one F-35, and we could buy them *now*, with roughly equal performance but missing the stealth advantages of the F-35.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 02 2014, @04:36PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 02 2014, @04:36PM (#50284)

      Australia has therefore committed to buy planes with a 2220km (1380mi) range, when the closest possibe threat (Indonesia) is 2940km (1825mi) away.

      If so then it's really for defense isn't it? ;)

    • (Score: 2) by frojack on Monday June 02 2014, @04:37PM

      by frojack (1554) Subscriber Badge on Monday June 02 2014, @04:37PM (#50285) Journal

      Australia has therefore committed to buy planes with a 2220km (1380mi) range, when the closest possibe threat (Indonesia) is 2940km (1825mi) away.

      Things have changed since World War II, and aircraft don't have to be built to fly from their base to the enemy and back again.

      The Australian Air Force already knows this. (How come you don't?). They've ordered aerial refueling tankers [wikipedia.org].

      --
      No, you are mistaken. I've always had this sig.
      • (Score: 1) by MostCynical on Monday June 02 2014, @08:57PM

        by MostCynical (2589) on Monday June 02 2014, @08:57PM (#50404) Journal

        Even with air-to-air refuelling, the f35 will have to refuel, perform its mission (including evasion and possible aerial combat), and return for refuelling (possible far) less than 1000km from the target.. Hardly ideal!

        --
        “I've learned from experience that asking politely never works unless you have the upper hand.” Daisuke Aramaki, GIS:SAC
    • (Score: 3, Funny) by isostatic on Monday June 02 2014, @05:03PM

      by isostatic (365) on Monday June 02 2014, @05:03PM (#50296) Journal

      I don't know, I watched this documentary about Austrailia being attacked -- the wall protecting Sydney lasted about 2 hours.

  • (Score: 5, Interesting) by bradley13 on Monday June 02 2014, @12:44PM

    by bradley13 (3053) Subscriber Badge on Monday June 02 2014, @12:44PM (#50179) Homepage Journal

    Wow, those are some budget cuts they have to live with. It appears that the main reduction is in the money thrown into Iraq and Afghanistan (highest 2008-2010). Overall military spending remains at or near historical highs [wikipedia.org].

    Why is the F-35 such a mess? For the same reasons that every major military procurement program is a mess: Politics, regulations and bureaucracy. The Air Force cannot just go buy a fighter aircraft - the appropriation bill is reviewed in detail by Congress: not for correctness, but for distribution of spoils. The bill is only approved if major subcontracts have been issues in all relevant Congressional districts - regardless of whether or not this makes any sense.

    Worse, the bills can be (and often are) rehashed every year. Already ordered those parts? Sorry, factory X is now in the wrong district - we have a new committee member - you've got to find a way to give factory Y a piece of the action. Oh, you planned to order 100 planes next year? Nope, make it 50 - or maybe make it 200 - and who cares if that totally screws up production planning. Congress micromanages these programs, but not in any normal sense of effective management - it's purely a matter of politics and self-interest.

    Then, of course, we have the usual problems: crazy procurement regulations, revolving door contracting, and a huge federal bureaucracy.

    As a result, getting any new aircraft approved, funded, designed and produced is incredibly difficult. Hence, that aircraft must be multi-role (fighter, bomber and tactical support all-in-one) and able to last for decades. Because getting the next one through Congress will be even more difficult. Which makes for an impossible, and impossibly expensive aircraft. Which gives Congress even more possibilities for game-playing and corruption.

    Just for amusement, consider the progression of equivalent aircraft - just looking at the production costs:

    • 1965 - F4-D unit cost US$2.4 million (US$18 million today)
    • 1998 - F15-D unit cost US$30 million (US$43.5 million today)
    • 2014 - F35-C unit cost US$143 million (US$143 million today)

    Each of these was, for its day, a high-end, multi-role fighter that stretched the technology of the day. You can put more data points in, but the trend is clear: in constant dollars, the per-unit costs have increased exponentially.

    --
    Everyone is somebody else's weirdo.
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 02 2014, @01:16PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 02 2014, @01:16PM (#50191)

      Extend that methodology to the rest of the gov and you can see why our budget is a complete mess.

      Was not paying attention anymore did they finally pass a budget like they are required to?

      I have been watch many older 60/70s shows. You can see little clips of newspapers or hear 'news summaries'. It is funny how people act like this sort of thing is new. It has been going on for a *very* long time. I have been also watching dragnet (good show btw) I tell my wife it is like listening to the internet argue.

      This is what kills me about people not wanting to axe part of the budget (except parts they dont like). We could easily loose 3/4ths of all parts and still have a well functioning gov. But the pork train is too large at this point. http://www.usdebtclock.org/ [usdebtclock.org]

      Politics, regulations and bureaucracy
      The last one I want to speak to. Take our standing army. They can not say how many boots they own. Something every single one of our soldiers must own. They can not say how many bullets they own. Something every single one of our soldiers needs to know how to use. They have a horrible procurement system. In many cases they overbuy then overbuy again because they simply did not know they had enough already.

      Gov spend and incorrect regulation has become a boat anchor on the American people.

      Also think about this http://www.usdebtclock.org/world-debt-clock.html [usdebtclock.org]
      Some of those countries do not have the crazy standing army we do and they have even worse debt problems. What could we do if we fixed our debt problems?! Think of the amazing infrastructure we could have?! We have a chance but it is fading.

      • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 02 2014, @05:46PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 02 2014, @05:46PM (#50323)

        Think of the amazing infrastructure we could have?!

        Obama floated that idea for the best place to spend the stimulus money, but Congress shot it down fast because, first, it was something that Obama wanted, and second, that would have mean a lot of money would have gone to construction companies, and a lot of them might be (gasp!) union (i.e., vote Democrat). Keep in mind that this was all done very soon after a major Interstate bridge collapsed and there was a lot of media attention on the crumbling and aged infrastructure, so if you can't get Congress to spend money after a fucking bridge collapses, what chance do you think you can get it to happen now?

    • (Score: 5, Interesting) by RamiK on Monday June 02 2014, @01:30PM

      by RamiK (1813) on Monday June 02 2014, @01:30PM (#50195)

      You forgot to mention the real kicker of it all: They're all pointless in the age of UAVs. Manned aircrafts are as obsolete as the horsed carriage. They under-perform and out-cost in every conceivable measure.

      --
      compiling...
      • (Score: 2) by scruffybeard on Monday June 02 2014, @02:22PM

        by scruffybeard (533) on Monday June 02 2014, @02:22PM (#50219)

        If manned aircraft are so obsolete, why are airlines and shipping companies wasting so much money on pilots? While UAV's certainly have their advantages, even with a human pilot flying from virtual cockpit, I am not sure that they can be as responsive, and adapt to every situation.

        • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Angry Jesus on Monday June 02 2014, @03:28PM

          by Angry Jesus (182) on Monday June 02 2014, @03:28PM (#50253)

          > If manned aircraft are so obsolete, why are airlines and shipping companies wasting so much money on pilots?

          Inertia. For example, the average age of the UPS fleet is 15.5 years. [airfleets.net]

          I don't have specific links handy, but as a regular reader of the risks digest [ncl.ac.uk] where they analyze nearly every fly-by-wire aircrash to death, the odds are against the pilots and in favor of the automation. One of the biggest reasons is that people are prone to error and they tend to do even worse in high stress situations.

          • (Score: 2) by scruffybeard on Monday June 02 2014, @05:12PM

            by scruffybeard (533) on Monday June 02 2014, @05:12PM (#50299)

            I am not sure that I believe that inertia is the only thing holding this back. It seems that we are reading about advances with automated automobiles frequently these days, but they are still prototypes with limited capabilities. I don't see the same advances for UAV's (I don't read much about this, so I could be missing something). The only production models I have seen are small light weight models with a small payload; a camera, and perhaps a limited supply of weapons for military models. I haven't seen anything on the scale of an F-16, or a 727 that would lead me to believe that conventional aircraft with pilots are anywhere close to being obsolete.

            Are UAV's safe? Definitely. Are they the future of commercial and military aviation? Probably. Are they going to replace the need for conventional aircraft in the next 10-20 years? I say no.

            • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Angry Jesus on Monday June 02 2014, @05:32PM

              by Angry Jesus (182) on Monday June 02 2014, @05:32PM (#50311)

              > Are they going to replace the need for conventional aircraft in the next 10-20 years? I say no.

              That's mostly because all of the planes in service today will still be in service 20 years down the line.

              Sure, it is a combination of factors. But inertia is the biggest one. There are a lot less airplanes in service than there are cars and they last a lot longer too which translates into slower change.

              > I don't see the same advances for UAV's (I don't read much about this, so I could be missing something). The only production models I have seen are small light weight models

              You'll note that there is also no such thing as a production autonomous car, even google's soon to be on the road bubblecars are still just testers. But the stuff that is production - auto-follow cruise control, automatic braking, stay-in-lane, etc all have equivalents on airplanes that have been in use for decades.

              As for test vehicles, here's one: http://www.baesystems.com/magazine/BAES_051920/look-no-hands [baesystems.com]

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 02 2014, @11:11PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 02 2014, @11:11PM (#50448)

          why are airlines[...]wasting so much money on pilots?

          ...like the one where the (fatigued) captain said "My aircraft" and the first officer refused to release his stick? [wikipedia.org]

          ...or the one where, even though his instruments were giving him readings that he knew were complete crap, the captain decided to take off anyway? [wikipedia.org]

          Good question.

          -- gewg_

      • (Score: 2) by tangomargarine on Monday June 02 2014, @02:33PM

        by tangomargarine (667) on Monday June 02 2014, @02:33PM (#50223)

        Until they jam you (for remote control) or the smart AI goes wrong somehow (for autonomous).

        What's that? That could never possibly happen? Riiiight.

        --
        "Is that really true?" "I just spent the last hour telling you to think for yourself! Didn't you hear anything I said?"
      • (Score: 2) by tibman on Monday June 02 2014, @04:38PM

        by tibman (134) Subscriber Badge on Monday June 02 2014, @04:38PM (#50287)

        No UCAV has won in a fight against a manned fighter. Surveillance and striking (unknowing) ground targets seems to be the only thing UAVs are currently good at. If UAVs made manned planes pointless then i think Delta Airlines, UPS, and so on would be firing all their pilots right now.

        --
        SN won't survive on lurkers alone. Write comments.
        • (Score: 2) by wantkitteh on Monday June 02 2014, @06:41PM

          by wantkitteh (3362) on Monday June 02 2014, @06:41PM (#50354) Homepage Journal

          "No UCAV has won in a fight against a manned fighter."

          Give it a few years. The economics of the research alone dictate that a lot of countries will be doing this right now, and doing it very quietly I might add. As soon as the price point is low enough and the logistics in place, drones will take over from humans for all missions that can be defined simply enough for a drone to be able to complete it with minimal remote human interaction.

          Establishing/maintaining air superiority is a prime example as it can be horrendously expensive in terms of equipment and lives lost. Drones working collaboratively with remote humans can designate and prosecute enemy aggressors while leaving the precious supply of human pilots free to pursue missions and targets that need complex on-the-spot human judgement.

          Of COURSE it's being worked on.

          • (Score: 2) by VLM on Monday June 02 2014, @08:50PM

            by VLM (445) on Monday June 02 2014, @08:50PM (#50401)

            'free to pursue missions and targets that need complex on-the-spot human judgement."

            Like air superiority in a crowded airspace with rules of engagement that are so complex they make humans heads spin. And so we've gone full circle, back to air superiority is a job best done by humans...

            The problem to solve with air superiority is not how to make things go boom (thats what A2A missile do, or S2A missiles for that matter...) the problem is you've got four aircraft nearby, one is an american medivac chopper full of wounded with battle damage so its IFF is broken so it looks like an enemy although a human pilot would know better, another is an al jazeera news chopper headed right to the front lines like typical journalist idiots, the third chopper is an enemy troop chopper that keeps trying to lure you over a known surface to air emplacement so they can shoot you down opening a hole in defensive coverage so the enemy bombers orbiting at just outside your range can swoop in unopposed once you're shot down or at least otherwise engaged in a pointless fight, and the fourth aircraft is an Air Isreal 747 with a "special" carry on bag that contains IFF gear that makes it look like a bomber on the radar, but it isn't, its just a commercial passenger jet with a suicide traveler. So which of the four do you shoot down? All of them? None of them? Its like an AI Turing test for pilots, every day.

            Its pretty much like claiming land mines will replace the need for infantry in general and special forces in particular. Well, they're useful, sorta, some of the time, but oddly enough every other silver bullet that's ever been invented has turned out to not be a universal silver bullet, so ...

        • (Score: 1) by deimtee on Tuesday June 03 2014, @02:30AM

          by deimtee (3272) on Tuesday June 03 2014, @02:30AM (#50496) Journal

          Depends on how you define an unmanned arial vehicle. Surface to Air missiles have taken down plenty of manned planes.
          If you mean machine-gun equipped drones dog-fighting WW1 style, then yeah it isn't going to happen. Cool as it would be, it just wouldn't be as cost effective or efficient as missiles.

          --
          No problem is insoluble, but at Ksp = 2.943×10−25 Mercury Sulphide comes close.
          • (Score: 2) by tibman on Tuesday June 03 2014, @01:35PM

            by tibman (134) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday June 03 2014, @01:35PM (#50621)

            hah, great point! I am also sure that missiles will continue to remain unmanned.

            --
            SN won't survive on lurkers alone. Write comments.
      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 02 2014, @06:22PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 02 2014, @06:22PM (#50343)
        I was waiting for the drone fanboys to come along to remind us that air superiority and multirole attack aircraft are currently obsolete. Please, do supply a list of all the engagements where air superiority has been achieved through UCAVs alone. I won't hold my breath. But try again in maybe 25 years...
        • (Score: 1) by alioth on Tuesday June 03 2014, @09:16AM

          by alioth (3279) on Tuesday June 03 2014, @09:16AM (#50569)

          That war hasn't been fought, so of course there will be no statistics.

          But if for example a UAV costs a tenth of a manned fighter, you can just zergling rush your opponent. You don't have to expend resources picking up shot down pilots, and your opponent is not only losing aircraft but personnel too.

    • (Score: 2, Insightful) by SuggestiveLanguage on Monday June 02 2014, @05:29PM

      by SuggestiveLanguage (1313) on Monday June 02 2014, @05:29PM (#50307)

      We vote only for Congressmen who promise to protect local defense jobs, even at the expense of ourselves, every other taxpayer, our children and the effectiveness of our nation's defense.

    • (Score: 2) by JeanCroix on Monday June 02 2014, @06:18PM

      by JeanCroix (573) on Monday June 02 2014, @06:18PM (#50341)
      Excellent summary; I'm glad someone came along and spelled all that out. There's another major problem you neglected though - feature creep. Each year, particularly for the F-35, the Joint Program Office has been increasing requirements and spec - add this; change that; make it do just this one, no two, no three extra things; put in a newer widget here; etc. That's not a good idea to do a project that's already well past the design phase. So then everyone (Lockheed, Pratt, et. al.) have to go back and redesign things to meet the new, more difficult, changed spec. But what do you mean that's going to put them over budget and behind schedule? Outrage!
    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by edIII on Monday June 02 2014, @06:23PM

      by edIII (791) Subscriber Badge on Monday June 02 2014, @06:23PM (#50344)

      You also essentially explained the problems with our health care system.

      30% efficient, when the the top 10 in the world are above 80% IIRC. It's also heavily micromanaged by parasitic middlemen and unduly influenced by Big Pharma and suppliers.

      The medical community is forced to give expensive tests, not demanded by medicine, but demanded by insurance companies to justify costs and procedures. A doctor has to literally prove it every single time. Don't even get me started on the preventative component of medicine being completely absent in the US. Insurance companies won't spend a nickle if they don't have to, only to have to spend 100k later on.

      People love to get upset about the death panels, but I have personally painful experience with a very sick friend dying because the insurance won't pick up the costs of a procedure that absolutely needs to be done. While this is an anecdote, a neurosurgeon who is a friend of the family reviewed the medical history and tests and thinks it's outright criminal and fundamentally murderous that this insurance company is refusing a life saving procedure saying there not sure it's appropriate.

      So in much the same way, corrupt monied interests interfere with medicine and how it operates in the same insane manner as Congress effectively dictating the design of an aircraft and purposefully installing parasites throughout the entire ill advised project to pump up costs well beyond what is actually necessary. My friend lays dying so that a shareholder can purchase more coke and hookers for his weekend getaway on his yacht.

      It goes far beyond health care as well. The US is more infested with disease and parasites, literally and metaphorically, than any 3rd world hell hole we sneer at.

      --
      Technically, lunchtime is at any moment. It's just a wave function.
  • (Score: 2, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 02 2014, @12:54PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 02 2014, @12:54PM (#50182)

    It's a little late now. Too bad my country (Holland) decided to join this mess and spend precious tax payer Euro on an aircraft that nobody needs (we have perfectly fine F16's). I'm still waiting on some kind of story coming from the States that would read something like, US government spends 1 billion to feed refugee children of Syria. But hey, what's the use of that, better spend orders of magnitude more just to be able to kill off more people more efficiently.

    • (Score: 1) by No.Limit on Monday June 02 2014, @01:33PM

      by No.Limit (1965) on Monday June 02 2014, @01:33PM (#50198)

      So let's summarise:

      The US, Australia [soylentnews.org] and Holland are all involved in this F-35 debacle.
      Meanwhile, Switzerland just got over the Gripen [wikipedia.org] debacle.

      While we're at it, there's also an interesting read one paragraph [wikipedia.org] above regarding Norway's evaluation of the F-35 & Sweden's Gripen:

      In December 2010 leaked United States diplomatic cables revealed that the United States deliberately delayed Sweden's request for access to a US AESA radar until after Norway's selection. The cables also indicated that Norwegian consideration of the Gripen "was just a show" and that Norway had decided to purchase the F-35 due to "high-level political pressure" from the US.

      There seems to be a clear trend when it comes to countries wanting to replace their fighter jets.

      Well, this all seems in alignment with the corruption & bureaucracy of politics [soylentnews.org].

  • (Score: 1) by Buck Feta on Monday June 02 2014, @12:58PM

    by Buck Feta (958) on Monday June 02 2014, @12:58PM (#50183) Journal

    Wait, we wasted all that money on the military when we could have had 200 NBA teams instead?

    --
    - fractious political commentary goes here -
    • (Score: 2) by Angry Jesus on Monday June 02 2014, @02:50PM

      by Angry Jesus (182) on Monday June 02 2014, @02:50PM (#50236)

      For all of the problems with the exercise, I though Dennis Rodman going to N Korea was probably a net positive.
      Basketball diplomacy...

  • (Score: 1) by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 02 2014, @01:04PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 02 2014, @01:04PM (#50185)

    The summary say's: "Not only did the Pentagon spend almost $400 billion to buy 2,400 aircraft - about twice as much as it cost to put a man on the moon - the F-35 program is 7 years behind schedule and $163 billion over budget."
     
    A dollar in the 1960s was different to a dollar now. Are the variables adjusted by some formula to give relative equality?
     
    Comparing the two projects, I would presume the task of putting a man on the moon in the 1960s would have been a MUCH MUCH more costlier and harder problem to solve. So how come it ended up being solved for only half the cost of this project? Were engineers and people who work on such things better back then?

    • (Score: 4, Insightful) by gman003 on Monday June 02 2014, @01:37PM

      by gman003 (4155) on Monday June 02 2014, @01:37PM (#50202)

      In 1960's dollars, the Apollo Program cost about $20 billion. Adjusted for inflation, that's about $100 billion.

      As for how old-school NASA managed to send people to the Moon on a relative shoestring budget, while the DoD can't even make a fighter plane with a king's ransom, there's a bunch of reasons. First, they're basically trying to make a plane that can do everything - air superiority, ground-attack, anti-ship, fly from any field or carrier. There's a reason the different branches have historically had different aircraft - they're doing different jobs. The idea of "one plane fits all" is a decent idea, but it doesn't work well in practice. Then there's the politics. The different branches fight over stupid things, because it's not like we've had any wars lately for them to let out that aggression. Congresscritters make sure there's jobs being "created" in their districts. Contractors keep finding ways to make a bigger profit off it.

      And in all honesty, the planes we had were perfectly fine. It's not like the F-35 is a revolutionary improvement (although the History Channel seems to disagree...), and it's not like any of our enemies are building anything comparable.

      Meanwhile, old-school NASA got a mission, got a budget, and then basically had free reign. The budget wasn't big enough to get all the leeches you see in the F-35 program - everybody had to actually do their job in order for it to succeed, and NASA kept tight reins on their contractors. It's a pretty good example of how a project *should* be run. They made some mistakes, sure, particularly early on, but by the end they had their shit in order.

      Current NASA is a bit of a different story though.

      • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Thexalon on Monday June 02 2014, @02:27PM

        by Thexalon (636) on Monday June 02 2014, @02:27PM (#50220)

        The different branches fight over stupid things, because it's not like we've had any wars lately for them to let out that aggression.

        Whaddaya mean, we haven't had any wars lately? We were at war in Iraq quite recently, are still at war against the Taliban in Afghanistan, had a little dust-up in Libya to oust Muammar Quadaffi, and have ongoing covert actions in Yemen, Pakistan, and Syria. And probably a few places I'm not thinking of off the top of my head.

        I know it's not the kind of wars that the military jocks are gearing up for, to ensure that we protect West Germany from Soviet aggression, but make no mistake, we're at war right now. It's a testament to our propaganda machine^H^Hmainstream media that you completely forgot about the half-dozen or so foreign countries where the US government is killing people on a regular basis.

        --
        The inverse of "I told you so" is "Nobody could have predicted"
        • (Score: 2) by tangomargarine on Monday June 02 2014, @02:41PM

          by tangomargarine (667) on Monday June 02 2014, @02:41PM (#50230)

          And none of those are fights where we would ever need a superadvanced stealth fighter. Because the world knows (well, other than Russia maybe) that it's just stupid to try to go up against the U.S. in any kind of conventional war. There's a reason it's all asymmetric.

          Well, that and we like beating up on people who can't fight back, I suppose.

          --
          "Is that really true?" "I just spent the last hour telling you to think for yourself! Didn't you hear anything I said?"
        • (Score: 2) by sjames on Monday June 02 2014, @03:53PM

          by sjames (2882) on Monday June 02 2014, @03:53PM (#50266) Journal

          None of those are declared and all were entirely optional. So basically we're just killing people for sport.

        • (Score: 2) by urza9814 on Tuesday June 03 2014, @09:08PM

          by urza9814 (3954) on Tuesday June 03 2014, @09:08PM (#50791) Journal

          When did Congress sign a declaration of war against *any* of these nations?

          Those aren't wars; they're terrorism.

    • (Score: 2) by evilviper on Monday June 02 2014, @05:23PM

      by evilviper (1760) on Monday June 02 2014, @05:23PM (#50304) Homepage Journal

      A dollar in the 1960s was different to a dollar now. Are the variables adjusted by some formula to give relative equality?

      Yes, the numbers were properly adjusted for inflation.

      I would presume the task of putting a man on the moon in the 1960s would have been a MUCH MUCH more costlier and harder problem to solve. So how come it ended up being solved for only half the cost of this project?

      It might have something to do with the fact that there were less than 20 Apollo rockets built, compared with 2,400 F-35s.

      Compare with the B-2 bomber program. There were only 21 built, yet the program totaled $44.75 billion as of a decade ago. Or the more-recent F-22 program, $66.7 billion for 195 aircraft.

      Also, in some ways the F-35 is far more complex than a space program... Rockets don't need stealth, advanced targeting systems, electronic jamming, super-cruise, thrust vectoring, etc., etc.

      IMHO, the whole F-35 program shouldn't exist. The F-22s should have been adapted for more of the duties the F-35 is slated for. The F-35 was justified as a cheaper aircraft, but the per-unit costs for the two craft are nearly the same. Half as many models, would have meant half as much R&D, and an operational fleet much sooner.

      --
      Hydrogen cyanide is a delicious and necessary part of the human diet.
      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 03 2014, @12:00AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 03 2014, @12:00AM (#50463)

        The F-22s should have been adapted for more of the duties the F-35 is slated for

        ...and, where its characteristics for the mission are unsurpassed, the A-10 should have been retained. [googleusercontent.com] (orig) [arizonadailyindependent.com]
        The Air Force has always hated the role of supporting ground troops, however, so that would never happen.

        -- gewg_

        • (Score: 2) by evilviper on Tuesday June 03 2014, @05:13AM

          by evilviper (1760) on Tuesday June 03 2014, @05:13AM (#50532) Homepage Journal

          the A-10 should have been retained.

          While I love the idea of the A-10, much the way everyone loves the idea of the SR-71, the argument against the A-10 is compelling.

          Smart munitions have undeniably been effective replacements. Iraq and Afghanistan ground support has been carried out by B-52s or B-1s, as well as some drones, quite well. Ground troops get more support from long-lingering bombers than they would from many times more A-10s. There's something to be said for an airborne platform to launch smart bombs out of.

          Complaints about the potential of GPS jamming are not compelling, as laser-guided munitions pre-date them and remain in the arsenal.

          The article you linked, suggests that close combat support requires more than dropping munitions, which I'd like to hear about, but did not elaborate on the topic, nor did the link provide more information.

          I have the benefit of Monday-morning quarterbacking, where the writers of the article did not, I realize, but the effectiveness of bombers and drones in support roles has been proven effective over many years of operation, in a post-A-10 world. Similarly, attack helicopters have the capability to perform many of the close air support roles the A-10 was needed for, and in some ways superior to the A-10.

          --
          Hydrogen cyanide is a delicious and necessary part of the human diet.
  • (Score: 2) by scruffybeard on Monday June 02 2014, @01:10PM

    by scruffybeard (533) on Monday June 02 2014, @01:10PM (#50186)

    When I first heard about this project, I though how cool that three different branches of the military could collaborate on a project like this. Being too young to realize at the time, this collaboration would prove very difficult, and may yet kill the entire project. The fact is that the military branches are really their own fiefdoms, and cannot seem to play nice, whether its making uniforms [military.com], building a joint payroll system [outsidethebeltway.com], or building a plane. They generate their own specific requirements that do nothing but drive up costs in the name of pride.

    • (Score: 3, Insightful) by VLM on Monday June 02 2014, @01:28PM

      by VLM (445) on Monday June 02 2014, @01:28PM (#50194)

      Same thing happened with the shuttle program, whenever you hear someone in aerospace (or more generally, .gov) claim it'll do everything for everyone all the time for less money, you know it'll be late, fail a lot, and be super expensive.

      Yet if you customize and do manual labor for each device to custom craft the best solution, like the pension filing system, they'll get equally savaged for not implementing a multi-billion dollar IT project to fail to replace what a multi-million dollar hand labor department accomplishes.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 03 2014, @12:16AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 03 2014, @12:16AM (#50469)

      the military branches [have] their own specific requirements

      You don't even have to leave the context of *tactical military aircraft* to find an analog.
      With McNamara in the early 1960s, we were EXACTLY here before. [wikipedia.org]

      -- gewg_

  • (Score: 2) by Thexalon on Monday June 02 2014, @01:16PM

    by Thexalon (636) on Monday June 02 2014, @01:16PM (#50190)

    The F-35 program, like most other military programs, does not exist to protect America, but to protect the profitability of the military contractors involved in creating it.

    That's not to say that they aren't doing some interesting work, or coming up with cool technology, or that the engineers are bad people. But the point of the exercise is to transfer as much of the public money as possible to major shareholders of Boeing, and the delays and cost overruns aid that goal.

    And remember, stuff like this constitutes at least 1/4 of the US federal budget. But for some reason, fully funding the VA is out of the question. And domestic programs? Fuggedaboutit!

    --
    The inverse of "I told you so" is "Nobody could have predicted"
    • (Score: 3, Informative) by TK on Monday June 02 2014, @01:46PM

      by TK (2760) on Monday June 02 2014, @01:46PM (#50206)

      Lockheed Martin is making the F-35. Boeing was the second choice for the JSF program, but the Lockheed prototype beat it out.

      --
      The fleas have smaller fleas, upon their backs to bite them, and those fleas have lesser fleas, and so ad infinitum
      • (Score: 2) by Thexalon on Monday June 02 2014, @01:57PM

        by Thexalon (636) on Monday June 02 2014, @01:57PM (#50210)

        Thank you for the correction. Not that it makes all that much difference to someone like me, who, like most people, is a stockholder nor employee of either company, but still has to foot the bill.

        --
        The inverse of "I told you so" is "Nobody could have predicted"
  • (Score: 2) by wonkey_monkey on Monday June 02 2014, @01:33PM

    by wonkey_monkey (279) on Monday June 02 2014, @01:33PM (#50196) Homepage

    The F-35 Fighter Plane Is Even More of a Mess Than You Thought

    Does anyone else find this kind of headline condescending? I didn't know the F-35 was any kind of mess, because I don't know anything about planes. On the other hand, an aviation engineer or other plane fan might already know exactly how much of a mess it is.

    Headlines that think they know what you think are almost as bad as the ones that tell you how you will react or what you should do:

    These videos will change the way you think about squirrels... forever!
    Build your own Arduino-powered velociraptor detector!

    --
    systemd is Roko's Basilisk
    • (Score: -1, Troll) by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 02 2014, @02:03PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 02 2014, @02:03PM (#50214)

      Go back to the cave you crawled out of. And stay there.

    • (Score: 2) by mhajicek on Monday June 02 2014, @02:07PM

      by mhajicek (51) on Monday June 02 2014, @02:07PM (#50215)

      Not condescending at all. If you didn't know it was a mess, then it is more of a mess than you thought.

      • (Score: 2) by wonkey_monkey on Monday June 02 2014, @05:36PM

        by wonkey_monkey (279) on Monday June 02 2014, @05:36PM (#50316) Homepage

        If you didn't know it was a mess, then it is more of a mess than you thought.

        By the same logic it's also more of a resounding success than I thought. So that doesn't really work.

        --
        systemd is Roko's Basilisk
    • (Score: 2) by lx on Monday June 02 2014, @03:13PM

      by lx (1915) on Monday June 02 2014, @03:13PM (#50245)

      I'm ignorant about fighter aircraft, but when your government despite massive opposition intends to spend billions of euros on these overpriced pieces of junk when cheaper and better alternatives are available and the damn things are in the news every other week then you tend to take notice. Usually this particular waste of money is described as the Joint Strike Fighter or JSF.

      Perhaps your country isn't involved in this boondoggle. In which case feel free to sit back in smugness. You deserve it, but please look at a real newspaper once in a while.

    • (Score: 2) by Grishnakh on Monday June 02 2014, @04:31PM

      by Grishnakh (2831) on Monday June 02 2014, @04:31PM (#50279)

      You don't have to be a plane expert to follow the news and know that the F-35 program has been a budgetary disaster for a long time.

      • (Score: 2) by wonkey_monkey on Monday June 02 2014, @05:33PM

        by wonkey_monkey (279) on Monday June 02 2014, @05:33PM (#50313) Homepage

        You don't have to be a plane expert to follow the news and know that the F-35 program has been a budgetary disaster for a long time.

        Maybe if you're an American...

        --
        systemd is Roko's Basilisk
    • (Score: 1) by strength_of_10_men on Monday June 02 2014, @05:26PM

      by strength_of_10_men (909) on Monday June 02 2014, @05:26PM (#50306)
      It's an article about CBS's 60 Minutes re-broadcast of a report. That isn't an esoteric show watched only by a small portion of the viewing public. If you haven't heard about this fiasco by now, it's your own fault.
      • (Score: 2) by wonkey_monkey on Monday June 02 2014, @05:31PM

        by wonkey_monkey (279) on Monday June 02 2014, @05:31PM (#50308) Homepage

        If you haven't heard about this fiasco by now, it's your own fault.

        I believe that's what's known as "piss-poor logic." Technical term, that.

        That isn't an esoteric show watched only by a small portion of the viewing public.

        Actually, it is. Unless, of course, you've made mistake of assuming that yours is the only country on the planet.

        --
        systemd is Roko's Basilisk
    • (Score: 2) by nitehawk214 on Monday June 02 2014, @09:27PM

      by nitehawk214 (1304) on Monday June 02 2014, @09:27PM (#50416)

      If you did not know the F-35 was a mess... then the title is correct. It is more of a mess than you knew. And knowing is half the battle.

      --
      "Don't you ever miss the days when you used to be nostalgic?" -Loiosh