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The F-35: A Weapon That Costs More Than Australia

The U.S. will ultimately spend $1 trillion for these fighter planes.  Where's the outrage over Washington's culture of waste?  We used to be content to outspend Australia on aircraft.  Now we literally spend Australia on aircraft. 


By Professor Dominic Tierney

Reprinted with permission

Source - The Atlantic

The Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II is an impressive aircraft: a fifth generation multirole fighter plane with stealth technology. It's also a symbol of everything that's wrong with defense spending in America.

In a rational world, U.S. military expenditure would focus on the likely threats that the United States faces today and in the future. And at a time of mounting national debt, the Tea Party would be knocking down the Pentagon's door to cut waste.

But the only tea party in sight is the one overseen by the Mad Hatter, as we head down the rabbit hole into the military industrial wonderland.

The F-35 is designed to be the core tactical fighter aircraft for the U.S. military, with three versions for the Air Force, Navy, and the Marine Corps. Each plane clocks in at around $90 million.

So, how many F-35s do we need?



Washington intends to buy 2,443, at a price tag of $382 billion.

Add in the $650 billion that the Government Accountability Office estimates is needed to operate and maintain the aircraft, and the total cost reaches a staggering $1 trillion.

In other words, we're spending more on this plane than Australia's entire GDP ($924 billion).

The F-35 is the most expensive defense program in history, and reveals massive cost overruns, a lack of clear strategic thought, and a culture in Washington that encourages incredible waste.

Money is pouring into the F-35 vortex. In 2010, Pentagon officials found that the cost of each plane had soared by over 50 percent above the original projections. The program has fallen years behind schedule, causing billions of dollars of additional expense, and won't be ready until 2016. An internal Pentagon report concluded that: "affordability is no longer embraced as a core pillar."

In January 2011, even Defense Secretary Robert Gates, a champion of the aircraft, voiced his frustration: "The culture of endless money that has taken hold must be replaced by a culture of restraint."

The F-35 is meant to be the future of U.S. tactical airpower, but the program harks back to the Cold War, when we faced an aggressive great power rival.

The world has changed. The odds of great power war have declined dramatically. We still need a deterrent capacity against China and Russia, but how much is enough? In a decade's time, the United States plans to have 15 times as many modern fighters as China, and 20 times as many as Russia.

Meanwhile, new challenges and threats have emerged. We should be focusing our military spending on the types of campaigns that we're actually likely to face: complex asymmetric wars against weaker opponents, where manpower and intelligence are critical.

And it's hard to square the military largesse with our rampant debt. Republicans want to slash billions from programs like early education, in Representative Jeb Hensarling's words, to "save our children from bankruptcy."

So where is the outrage at the F-35's outlandish cost?

Some just don't seem to care. When it comes to defense, Republicans are the champions of big government and massive expenditure. The F-35 is too big to fail.

At the same time, many Democrats keep quiet for fear of looking weak on defense--unless, likeSenator Bernie Sanders, they're from Vermont.

Other politicians are bought off with pork. Defense suppliers are spread throughout dozens of states, giving everyone a reason to look the other way.

Any serious effort to balance the federal budget will require significant cuts in defense spending. And the F-35 is a prime target.

The 2010 bipartisan Bowles-Simpson Commission on deficit reduction suggested canceling the Marine Corps's version of the F-35, and halving the number of F-35s for the Air Force and Navy--replacing them with current generation F-16s, which cost one-third as much. This would save close to $30 billion from 2011 to 2015.

The plan went nowhere.

We used to be content to outspend Australia on aircraft.  Now we literally spend Australia on aircraft. 




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Reader Comments (14)

The real fear is that as soon as anybody starts talking about cutting the Military/Industrial/Complexes endless supply lines ...of money ...then another 911 will occur. Even Russia at the height of the Cold War was no match for the American Military/Industrial/Complex ...its all a racket and everybody knows it. But to call them out is to be labeled "weak" ...a new em=nemy was needed so 911 was "commissioned" and Muslims where framed .
So now America has its required "Enemy" ,the only problem is they (Muslims) don't generally have Fighter Aircraft for American "Top Guns" to battle ! And as to the 15 to 1 ratio against China or 20 to 1 against Russia is that saying American pilots now will need 15 or 20 advantage because Americas losses will be that high ?
Mar 18, 2011 at 9:45 PM | Unregistered Commentermick
It doesn't sound very green.
Mar 18, 2011 at 11:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterHenry K.
I agree with Henry. How many solar panels are on each model?

I thought the goals were reducing oil dependency, cutting the deficit for the children, and peace--all at a painful but realistic price tag. And then this. It's enough to make a man reach for his pipe.
Mar 19, 2011 at 12:55 AM | Unregistered CommenterCheyenne
A former championship athlete just texted me with yet another Easter Bunny joke. I responded as follows:

# # # #
It came recently into my possession, this shaving kit that doesn't belong to me. Seeking its owner's I.D., I looked inside & found yours--and a severed finger.
# #
Does this ring a bell?
# # # #

He is thus far and curiously non-responsive. And that was the normal part of this morning.
Mar 19, 2011 at 12:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterCheyenne
You Guys will be Damn Glad we got all them F-35'- Fighter when that middle-east desert Camel Herd starts their Invasion..!!
Mar 19, 2011 at 10:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterEddie'56
Eddie'56 put the cork backin the shine' bottle guy ! When the "Invasion..!! " starts from the "middle-east desert" the enemy will be speaking Hebrew and they already stole the plans and research data from the " F-35'- Fighter" program.
Mar 19, 2011 at 10:32 PM | Unregistered Commentermick
Better we spend it on armament than on welfare programs that are a bottomless hole, with armament you have something tangible, with welfare you have ingrates who have interest only in their constricted little world, The whiners about this expense forget that we disarmed after WWI and it emboldened tyrants and despots. Japan is an ally now but they were building a world class advanced military while we fiddled around with our WWI ships and bi-wing aircraft. Germany wasn't supposed to re=arm but built a huge military right under the world's noses. Makes you wonder if they would have been so adventuresome if we
thousands of aircraft and hundreds of ships.
Mar 20, 2011 at 12:45 AM | Unregistered CommenterVernon Clayson

Some background on Lockheed. Of course the entire thing is a ripoff. A friend asked me why the Japanese had a GE reactor. I replied: 'My best guess is that the post-war 'deal' went something like this: you buy our big ticket items, which is mainly military stuff, and you can sell the smaller ticket items such as autos and electronics.' An off the cuff remark that I suspect is on the mark. In any case, the main reason for these things being built, and then countries like Libya being attacked, is to generate a need for ongoing supply of military-industrial crap.

A Russian general predicted almost to the day how long the 1991 bombardment of Baghdad would last based on the amount of ordinance the US had in line to use up so that new orders could be placed.

With companies like Lockheed of course who, if they were building things like cars, computers or toasters, would have been driven out of business decades ago.
Mar 20, 2011 at 7:33 AM | Unregistered CommenterAsh
We better spend the money on the jets and train the pilots to fly them, ground crews, support personel. The reason being the majoirty of young men and women in the US don't have the guts, back bone, balls to stand up and defend this nation, fornerly known as the United Stated of America...

Bring back the draft......
Mar 20, 2011 at 9:53 AM | Unregistered CommenterInurface
The Biggest threat to this Country is not the Camel Herd or the Hebrew speaking Middle Easterners, the Chinese, the russians or any other country on the planet. The biggest threat to the People of the United States are the Idiots running the government at the direction of Wall Street and the multinational special interests.

Democrat or Republican describes two sides of the same coin. Both parties are refusing to regulate a financial industry that is completely out of control, and backing a Military Industrial Complex we can't afford. Elizabeth Warren, is one of the few people in Washington who is standing up for the American Middle Class Consumer. Sold out politicians of both parties are doing everything they can to discredit her and send her packing. I actually remember a time when I was proud to say I was a Republican, It'll cold day in hell before I say it again, reading what those sold out banksters were pushing at the Financial Services subcommittee inquiry made me sick.

Wake up Sheeple, the shepherds sold out and the wolves are inside the fence.
Mar 20, 2011 at 1:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterSagebrush
“My view of the tea party is the tea party is one of the best things that’s happened to American democracy in a very, very long time,” he said. “People in the tea party, like me, believe that our freedom is being taken away.”

He mocked Obama’s background as a community organizer, saying it is the wrong kind of experience for a president, adding, “It’s worse than we thought, isn’t it? He really seems like he doesn’t know what he’s doing. “
Mar 20, 2011 at 2:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterRudy G.
Sorry, Rudy G., but Obama knows exactly what he's doing, he's conducting, with the help of the Congress and the moneyed class, the "fundamental transformation" of the America the founders sought to establish. The American voters have only themselves to blame, in their eagerness to make up for the suffering of black slaves 150 years ago, a subject that has been pounded into us for decades, they elected a grinning jiving lying half white, half black Arab, they knew absolutely nothing about. The voters put less thought into electing him than they do selecting so-called celebrity singers and dancers on TV programs.
Maybe you could tell us why we should take the lunacy in Libya seriously when the Commander-in-Chief is enjoying life in Brazil, perhaps, or maybe not, negotiating with their leaders. If this were George Bush the TV pundits would fault him around the clock and the newspapers would have headlines about him neglecting his duties, for Obama it's Let the good times roll.
Mar 20, 2011 at 3:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterVernon Clayson
Naturally, being confined to the underworld (Australia) I do pay attention to mentions of it - especially by pundits.
However, to put things in perspective, downunder in OZ, we spend proportionately more than the US on "Armaments" by population/income ratio and it doesn't do a damn thing for our economy or protection.

The ONLY thing that makes sense for this defenceless country is to go nuclear. It is strange that we hold the key to nuclear supply in our uranium, our scientists did more than anyone else to make nuclear energy use possible, especially bombs.
Yet we allow foreigners (USA) to tell us we can't have it, but they can.
Yet the USA is the only country to deliberately nuke a civilian population - TWICE.

The USA is the most aggressive empire in all history - nobody invaded more countries than the USA.
Nobody fought internal wars more viciously than the - my god what a name - "Civil War" between brothers.

I keep reading about the Islamic threat constantly - but nobody seems to mention that the main Islamic threat is between the two main opposing "Islams" - the Sunni and the Shia. They are liable to explode into full Jihad (= insane war - no gain -just kill other Religionists) , which could take out most of the cheap oil left on the planet!

Nobody even seems to notice that the 2 main Islamic countries in the world are hardly ever mentioned:
Indonesia and Malaysia. (You can row a boat between Oz and what used to be peaceful New Guinea before the Indonesian takeover with ferocity).

The insane Jihadists are very successfully stirring the Indonesian peasantry to a level not seen in a generation. It is all done with Saudi Oil Money - and SAudi Arabia is now under the thrall of the most scary Islamic sect of all: Wahabi.
Just to put things in a little perspective:
There are over 160 million Muslims in Indonesia and 40 million in Malaysia.
In Oz there are 22 million, 40% of which weren't even born here and 15% Middle Eastern(predominantly Muslim) out-breeding the locals 8:1.

And no, I'm not anti-muslim. I am anti-Islam. It is every bit as vicious a system as 12th century Christianity.
It is frightening because there is no intelligence to its aims which are to take the world back to the dark ages.

Even the preposterous propaganda seen in recent times claiming almost every peaceful scientific advance being developed by Islam, from the camera obscura - by a system that forbids reproducing images at all, to advanced mathematical concepts developed in Asia millenia before these tent-dwelling nomads attacked and almost over-ran civilisation itself.

There is a very, very distinct possibility of the two principal Islamic groups believing that ( with God on their distinct side) the timing is right to get even with each other - ( very much like the "troubles" in Ireland kicked off with the belief that the times were favourable...)

THAT means most cheap oil no longer available. The first thing that the Jihad will do is blow up all the oil plants. How about petrol(gas) at say, 20 bucks a gallon? (When you can get it.....)

These are interesting times, alright,
Peace to you all,
Mar 20, 2011 at 8:04 PM | Unregistered Commenterhimagain

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