Sunday, October 30, 2011

Meanwhile, Turning to F-35 News

The F-35 is a truly hi-tech fighter but one thing that high-tech always comes with is a serious shelf-life problem.  Hi-tech weaponry is inevitably expensive which usually means sacrificing quantity for quality.  You wind up with fewer of them in the expectation they'll actually be so much more effective that you'll come out ahead compared with the cheaper option.  The term used is "force multiplier."  But it's a big gamble that will turn into a loser eventually.

The history of man is full of high-tech weaponry.   When prehistoric man first figured out how to lash a sharp pointy stone to a sapling, turning a knife into a spear, that was pretty high-tech for its time.  Boiling leather to form it into armour was high-tech for its time.  Gunpowder, muskets, cannon, rifles, machine guns, artillery, heavier than air flight, tanks, rockets, jet engines, nuclear bombs - all were high-tech by turns.   Each was a huge force-multiplier but only for a while, only until rivals figured out how to counter them or copy them.

The F-35 is a mediocre fighter made invisible, sort of invisible.   Once it becomes detectable, however, you're left with a mediocre fighter and, because of its enormous costs, very few of them.  It should still work well enough against backward enemies lacking modern air defence systems but there are far more capable, far less expensive aircraft that can do that job even better.   The F-35 is designed to fight countries that can afford to deploy their own high-tech weaponry, countries that are already developing their own stealth aircraft and the sort of radar that does work quite well against the F-35.   And these potential adversaries know they've got at least five years, probably ten, before they would have to worry about defeating a force of F-35 fighters.

Worse yet, the F-35 is "high-tech brittle" unlike its big stealth brother, the F-22 Raptor.  If the Raptor's stealth advantage is negated it remains an incredibly effective fighter.  It's fast, agile, long-range, survivable and carries a substantial weapons load.   If you negate the F-35's stealth advantage it's far from fast, unmaneuverable,  short range and carries a very modest weapons load.  In air combat against any of the old Russian Sukhoi 30 series fighters, the F-35 would be dead meat.

So what assurance do we have, what manufacturer's warranty will we get, that the F-35's stealth technology will remain effective for ten, twenty or thirty years, the service life we expect from this aircraft?   Shouldn't we get some promise that the F-35 won't be old-tech target practice for at least a decade, maybe even two?

This thing is wrong at so many levels that one wonders what backroom deals keep driving it forward.

(Excerpted from  

The Disaffected Lib