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Why the USN and USMC Shouldn't Buy the F-35

Why the USN and USMC Shouldn't Buy the F-35

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Published by Black Owl

I am a senior at the United States Naval Academy. This is a brief 17 page analysis on why the United States Navy and United States Marine Corps shouldn't purchase the F-35 and should instead buy Super Hornets as well as better weapons.

I am a senior at the United States Naval Academy. This is a brief 17 page analysis on why the United States Navy and United States Marine Corps shouldn't purchase the F-35 and should instead buy Super Hornets as well as better weapons.

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Published by: Black Owl on Apr 11, 2012
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09/17/2013

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Why the USN and USMC Shouldn’t Buy the F
-35:
Newer Isn’t Always Better
 
by Author: Black Owl
The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is the leading edge in fifth generation fighter technology.The U.S. Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps have invested much into this aircraft along withmany of our allies around the world. The United States armed forces are in need of new aircraft
due to a “fighter gap” that will occur when many of our Cold War era strike aircraft become
retired from service.
1
However, buying the F-35 series aircraft for use by the U.S. Navy and U.S.Marine Corps as an answer to this gap would be a grave mistake with terrible consequences. TheF-35 series of fighters are simply not worth the price that they cost and will not be enough for theneeds of the services.Let me first make it clear that when talking about fighters the costs given for aircraft canbe measured in several ways. There is the procurement cost, which is the total price of theaircraft, then there is the fly away cost and several other measures that often have differentnames and different prices for the same aircraft since they include or exclude certain factors. Formy analysis I will only be using the flyaway cost, which is also called the
“per unit cost
.
Theflyaway cost is one measure of the cost of an aircraft. It values the aircraft at its marginal cost,including only the cost of production and production tools immediately accruing to the buildingof a single unit
2
. It excludes prior costs such as research and development (treating these as sunk 
1
Greg.
“Managing the Navy’s Strike Fighter Gap” 
Defensetech.org. Published April 10, 2012. Accessed March 20,2012. <http://defensetech.org/2010/04/14/managing-the-navys-strike-fighter-gap/>
2
 via
saffm.hq.af.mi 
, February 2008, p. 81. Retrieved April 10,2012.
 
Black Owl 2
costs), supplementary costs such as support equipment, or future costs such as spare parts andmaintenance.
3
 The number one issue surrounding the F-35 in the eyes of its potential buyers is that itscost is continually rising and has shown no sign of slowing down. When Lockheed Martin, themaker of the F-35, had first been awarded the contract in 2001 the advertised unit price for aproduction model F-35 was $50 million dollars, a reasonable amount for such an advancedfighter aircraft.
4
However, since that moment the price of the F-35 series has drasticallyincreased and now is well out of control. The F-35 A-model for the U.S. Air Force is currently at$172 million (unit cost). The F-35 B-model for the U.S. Marine Corps is $291.7 million (unitcost) and the F-35 C-model being made for the U.S. Navy is listed at $235.8 million (unit cost).
5
 The worst part about this is that the costs are still going up.The primary reason for the cost increases is that each model of the F-35 is plagued withterrible design flaws that are expensive and difficult to fix. Some of the flaws are specific to thetype of model. The most notable is the F-35C, which as of yet cannot land on a carrier due tohaving a tailhook with an insufficient length to safely trap the aircraft aboard. Making aredesigned tailhook is not going to be easy to integrate into the highly complex aircraft andengineers have already said that there are no easy solutions.
6
The F-35B is in a worse state. It is
3
 "Unmanned Aerial Vehicles: Progress Toward Meeting High Altitude Endurance Aircraft Price Goals",Retrieved April 10, 2012. <http://www.fas.org/irp/gao/nsiad-99-029.htm>
4
 
Drew, Chistopher. “
Cost of F-35 Said to have increased %60 to %90, Military Says
” New York
Times OfficialWebsite. Published March 11, 2010. Accessed March 30, 2012.<http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/12/business/12plane.html>
5
de Briganti, Giovanni.
“ANALYSIS: F 
-
35 LRIP 5 Contracts: Unit Cost Tops $200M for First Time” 
Defense-aerospacewebsite. Published March 12, 2012. Accessed March 15, 2013. <http://www.defense-aerospace.com/cgi-bin/client/modele.pl?shop=dae&modele=feature&prod=133433&cat=5>
6
Sweetman, Bill.
“JSF 
-
What’s Really Happening” 
Aviationweek.com. Published December 13, 2011. AccessedFebruary 26, 2012.<http://www.aviationweek.com/aw/blogs/defense/index.jsp?plckController=Blog&plckBlogPage=BlogViewPost&n
 
Black Owl 3
designed to vertically take off and land. However, it can’t do this without cracks appearing in the
airframe and other structural damage due to the fact that vectoring the nozzle down for verticalflight puts immense stress on certain crucial parts.
7
 Other flaws are unique to the complexity of the materials and technology used. Duringone of the tests where an F-35 made its first flight at maximum speed, mach 1.6, the JSF teamreported the flight as a success. What they failed to mention during their reports was that the F-
35 had landed with “peeling and bubbling” from certain sensitive stealth coatings on the tails and
damage to thermal panels
that couldn’t handle the air fri
ction of mach speed. The advancedhelmet that provides the all around image through IR cameras to the pilot lags 130 millisecondsbehind sightline movement and blurs when the pilot turns his head fast, which is something oftendone in combat.
8
 The current U.S. Navy strike fighter is the Boeing built F/A-18E/F Super Hornet Block II, which has not only proven to be extremely reliable, but has been able to participate in everyconflict since its service began and proven to be effective and flexible throughout the entirety of its use in the U.S. Navy. The Super Hornet Block II now has a price of $66.9 million (unit cost)
9
,which means that for every one F-35C the Navy purchases it could also purchase 3.5 SuperHornets for the same price. For every one F-35B the U.S. Marine Corps purchases it could alsohave purchased 4.4 Super Hornets for the same price. Not only is the Super Hornet cheaper topurchase, but it is also much cheaper to operate. The Super Hornet costs $18,900 per hour to fly
ewspaperUserId=27ec4a53-dcc8-42d0-bd3a-01329aef79a7&plckPostId=Blog%3a27ec4a53-dcc8-42d0-bd3a-01329aef79a7Post%3abcb29d8f-6a85-40c5-8f1d-c84d20afe997&plckScript=blogScript&plckElementId=blogDest>
7
Trimble, Stephan.
“New Cracks Stop Vertical Landings on Some F 
-35Bs
” Flightglobal.com. Published November 18,
2011. Accessed February 29, 2012. <http://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/new-cracks-stop-vertical-landings-on-some-f-35bs-365059/>
8
Sweetman.
9
U.S. Department of Defense
, February 2012. Retrieved: April 10, 2012.

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Zbigniew M. Mazurak added this note
There are some good observations here, but also many huge factual errors. Firstly, the advantage that stealth technology brings to the warfighter is not decreasing. Quite the contrary. L-band radars are still poor at detecting all-aspect stealthy aircraft such as the F-22 and the B-2, and lower-band radars (with longer wavelengths) still send waves that are way too short (by at least 5 times) to
SpazSinbad liked this
Rolland Campbell added this note
Is there an alternate source for this article that enables print out? Thank You, cstool20636@gmail.com
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