Monday, January 28, 2013

Why the F-35? Here's why!

One of the best statements we've seen on why the F-35 is so important to our military and country's future.  It comes from Thomas Donnelly and Phillip Lohaus of the American Enterprise Institute who have written an excellent paper entitled "Mass and Supremacy - a comprehensive case for the F-35".
The F-35—as an industrial-scale realization of the “fifth generation” of aircraft and other systems envisioned near the end of the Cold War and immediately after—was always intended to be the largest project of its era. It is now one of the few remaining opportunities to bring those technologies into use. Early-generation stealth aircraft like the F-117 Nighthawk and B-2 Spirit have passed their primes (and, of course, at 21 bombers, the B-2 fleet was tiny), and the Lighting II’s partner, the F-22 Raptor, was terminated after 187 planes were procured, rather than the 750-plus that were anticipated.

The Army has failed to acquire a major new system, and the Navy’s record for submarines, surface combatants, and advanced aircraft is nearly as dismal. Hundreds of billions of dollars were spent (albeit not fast enough) for one-off systems like the Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected trucks, low-end remotely piloted vehicles, body armor, and other short-term procurements in the post–9/11 wars; these were necessities, but not the foundation for the forces of the future. If the F-35 program is further truncated—indeed, if it is not accelerated and sustained—the United States will essentially have skipped a generation of military modernization.
To put it another way, we're well behind the power curve even as we see other nations, notably China, on huge modernization kicks. Over the years of our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, modernization of our tactical and strategic forces has taken a back seat to "necessities" brought on by those wars.  Now we face budget issues.

However, none of that will stop potential adversaries from continued development of their capabilities.

Donnelly and Lohaus also answer the critics who claim to know the future of our conflicts and have decided they'll be asymetric and require UAV's:
It is impossible to predict the precise nature of future wars. Though it is important to build off lessons learned in recent conflicts, America cannot dismiss the possibility of war against a technologically sophisticated state. The value of the current generation of UAVs in such a conflict is unclear, and inventing, designing, and building a high-end UAV fleet would not be cheap—indeed, the most effective future UAV might well be a variant of the F-35 design.
Anyone who does dismiss such a possibility of war against a technologically sophisticated state just shouldn't be taken seriously.  As Gen. Petraeus said upon retiring, we must prepare ourselves for all possibilities.  To pretend to know what sort of war the future will bring is an exercise in folly.

Over the next week or so, we'll be working our way through the paper by Donnelly and Lohaus and examining their arguments.  But their statement above provides a very real "bottom line".  We're at a "fish or cut bait" moment in our defense strategy.  We need to understand the ramifications of not completing or cutting the F-35 program to our future. 

This paper provides a excellent point with which to begin that look.


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