But whatever reservations the navy may have about the F-35, he notes that the Pentagon has deemed the programme “too big to fail”.
And that’s something I have some real issues with. This obsession with overthinking the problems to the nth degree and losing sight of the overall objective to begin with had bedeviled defence RDT&E for decades.
It’s not the need for an airframe to replace the venerable F-16, the AV-8B or the F-18 family that I question. These were and still are fine and capable platforms for the sort of missions for which they were designed. Unfortunately, they’re also old and wearing out. Almost eleven years of sustained combat operations has done nothing to improve the situation.
The problem is that in trying to do three very different missions with a single airframe, (With one being a V/STOL variant!) the Pentagon is trying to cram a gallon into a pint pot and this sort of thing seldom ever works out well. That it did with the old F-4 Phantom was a happy accident, not a design objective.
The Pentagon need to take some lessons from the Russians. “Make it simple, make it rugged, make it work!” has served them well for nearly a century. Their planes may not be quite as sophisticated, but they work when you need them to, they’re damned near unbreakable, and you can throw in the fancy upgrades later on when needed.