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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
None of those are declared and all were entirely optional. So basically we're just killing people for sport.
When did Congress sign a declaration of war against *any* of these nations?
Those aren't wars; they're terrorism.
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.
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.
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.