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US military grounds entire fleet of F-35 jets (bbc.com)
112 points by joering2 62 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 168 comments



Most people reading will recognize that it is a standard procedure to ground everything until you understand the risk. In this case the risk is a faulty fuel line, and apparently there is a test that will let you know in the field if you have it or not so you can return the plane to service immediately if the test comes up negative.

There is a remarkable amount of disinformation that is spread around about this plane. My father (who is ex-Air Force) assumes it is because it is so far beyond what "opposing" forces can field they will do anything to delay its operation. I don't know where it comes from but I do not that the relative transparency of the US procurement process makes it easy to talk about problems which are later addressed and never return. You can compare that to a more secretive system where all of the kinks are worked out behind the curtain and the end product is presented ready to fly. It "feels" better from a marketing sense but I haven't read anything that suggests the Russians or the Chinese have any fewer issues when they build a bunch of new technology into a plane, it just gets reported on less.


That's an interesting theory, that there's a foreign disinformation campaign smearing the program, because they don't want it fielded against them.

I'd argue against that theory though, on the grounds that a corrupt/greedy congress, military and defense contractor network will do more against the country than our opponents ever will. Remember that time we bankrupted the USSR in an arms race? This time we're doing it to ourselves.

So if anything, I think the flag waving F35 program supporters are both the defense contractors (obviously) but also all the foreign states that would like us bankrupt and saddled with decreased air power in three armed services. It's genius.


> there's a foreign disinformation campaign smearing the program

Do we have any evidence of this?

> Remember that time we bankrupted the USSR in an arms race? This time we're doing it to ourselves

The Soviets spent 25% of their national income on their military in 1980 [1]. Most years, it was above 10%. In contrast, the United States spends low single digits of its GDP on its military [2].

[1] https://nintil.com/2016/05/31/the-soviet-union-military-spen...

[2] https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/MS.MIL.XPND.GD.ZS


Wow, talk about cherry picking.

> The Soviets spent 25% of their national income

> United States spends low single digits of its GDP

Why are you comparing income vs GDP? Apples and oranges, please..

"In FY 2017, the Congressional Budget Office reported spending of $590 billion for defense, about 15% of the federal budget." [1]

[1] https://www.cbo.gov/system/files?file=115th-congress-2017-20...


> Why are you comparing income vs GDP?

GDP is a measure of national income, alongside GNP, GNI, NNI and NMP [1][2]. The article finds "one would say that military spending was around 10-20% of Soviet GDP, so perhaps a compromise figure of 15%, around twice USA spending."

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Measures_of_national_income_an...

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Net_material_product


> assumes it is because it is so far beyond what "opposing" forces can field they will do anything to delay its operation

This doesn't hold water; nation-state propaganda doesn't have any effect on the funding this program receives. Nobody should have any trouble believing that an overly-ambitious pie-in-the-sky kitchen-sink project that has been in development for 30 years might be having a hard time meeting its lofty goals, or indeed nailing down its goals in the first place.

Consider the Space Shuttle program, and now realize that in four years the F-35 will have been going on longer than the shuttle program, and that the F-35 has already cost five times more than the entire shuttle program, and that the shuttle is also today considered an overall failure (and this opinion is not ascribed to "opposing forces"). And if the shuttle can be a failure while achieving more than the F-35, while costing less than the F-35, with a smaller (though still huge and confused) scope than the F-35, by what possible metric can the F-35 not be considered a failure?

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.


When you consider that only 6 shuttles were ever built and the projected cost of the f35 program includes thousands of fighter jets and decades of maintenance then this will really open up your eyes how much of a failure the shuttles were.


> This doesn't hold water; nation-state propaganda doesn't have any effect on the funding this program receives.

Again, I wasn't offering up my father as an expert (other than having been in the Air Force, which is weak at best), just sharing his take on the observation of all the negative articles.

And you don't need to go to the Shuttle, look at the CVN-X program (21st century aircraft carrier, aka the Ford class) which has EMALS and a bunch of other next gen tech, lots and lots of press about boondoggle and how nothing worked, and this thing is a sitting duck in an ancient concept of what war will be like. The B-2 bomber, similarly maligned as over priced, under delivered, not worth the money when B-52s can be retrofitted. Or its earlier sibling the B-1 bomber cancelled then un-cancelled. Or the Seawolf class submarines, too expensive, not enough justification Etc etc.

So I think the press coverage, especially when it is effective at raising outrage over social programs, is effective at getting congressional action to limit the investment in new weapon systems.

Some citations for your perusal

[1] B2 Bomber program cancellation is urged (1989) -- https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/politics/1989/05/19/b...

[2] Seawolf cancelled [1992] -- https://fas.org/man/dod-101/sys/ship/docs/910802-cr.htm

[3] Penny Pinching Submarine Warfare to Death -- https://www.nytimes.com/1992/04/01/opinion/l-penny-pinching-...

[4] B1 Bomber flew in 1974 but was cancelled in 1977 -- https://www.boeing.com/history/products/b-1b-lancer.page


Don't forget there are some of us completely against warfare, no matter how it is being sold to us.

Seeing any report on defective military weaponry warms my heart... Why? Imho, because the sole purpose of weaponry is to cause harm to others.

Isn't it time we grow up and stop the sabre rattling, and live good, honest lives that respects the life of others? There was a Jew, 2000 yrs ago who tried to spread this message... It seems that we're just as deaf as ever though.


I certainly resonate with your message but I also see a bit of nuance. It hinges on the question of what others are trying to do to you as well right? Military weapons exist, and there are people who will use those weapons to assert control over you (you can the people of Crimea, Syria, Kuwait, Yemen, Myanmar, etc). So if you are ok with submitting to the whims of anyone who has weapons, then not having weapons of your own is a viable option. I don't see that as a very common point of view however.


What a bizzare comparison. The shuttle isn't a fighter jet and and has nothing to do with this. The question is what military value does the F-35 provide, and will provide, during its operational years. Nothing about the history of the shuttle program can possibly give us an answer to this question, and the entire comparison is absurd.


I think the basis of comparison is that both projects would have been better off with a more focused mission scope. In the case of the shuttle, it should have focused on launch and return of human crews and left BDRs to launch payloads. In the case of the F-35, the branch-of-service requirements were sufficiently different that individual platforms should have been developed to address each specific need.


Even if that were the case (and I seriously doubt that splitting the F-35 into multiple platforms would have resulted in a smaller budget, reduced development time, or better overall value. At the very least it's not trivial that that would be the case), it tells us absolutely nothing about the value of the F-35 compared to the Shuttle. I have kitchen gadgets that attempt to do too many thing at once and would have fared better as separate devices. They are cheaper than the F-35, so I guess the F-35 must be a failure.


Maybe it's from the project running over budget by hundreds of Billions of dollars and being a decade late?


Does anybody in the industry know why there was a push to move away from specific role planes that excel in one area to ones that can do any area decently? I know in theory that there would be savings having one platform, but making one jet modular for 3 different roles is seeming to be more difficult than just designing 3 different jets. It can't beat the EuroFighter in a dog fight and can't match the stealth bomber for ordinance carried (actually a guess...please correct me if wrong) and can't match the A-10 for ground support. It just seems like a massive mistake that is now too big to fail.


Because of the theoretical cost savings, as you mention. The JSF was aggressively fashioned toward futuristic notions of distance warfare. Missiles today have phenomenal performance, versus Vietnam era seekers that would fly into the sun. This might have been premature with the unexpected turn into asymmetric warfare. Also, any internet discussion on the A-10 (or SR-71, or Concorde) devolves into uninformed fanboyism, so I won't even go there.


Using the Navy as an example since their aircraft fleet is somewhat more simplistic than the AF, historically there were a lot of different airframes on carriers. The iconic 80s cold war fleet was a mix of the following:

* F-4 - older multirole fighter, SEAD/STRIKE/CAS

* F/A-18 (A/B/C/D aka legacy hornet) - replacement multirole

* F-14 - interceptor

* A-4 - strike, SEAD etc

* A-7 - strike, SEAD etc

* A-6 - strike, CAS

* EA-6 (significantly different from the A-6) - ELINT/EWAR

* E-2 - AWACS

* C-2 - COD

* S-3 - Anti submarine, Tanker

These were pretty much all replaced in the mid 90s leaving the following:

* F/A-18 (E/F, basically a different airframe) - multirole fighter, SEAD/STRIKE/CAS and Tanker

* EA-18G (basically the same airframe as the E/F) - EWAR/SEAD while retaining marginal A2A capability

* E-2 - AWACS

* C-2 - COD

That's a pretty drastic reduction in airframes to manage so it's understandable why those managing them want to try to maintain consolidation to an extent. Now whether this is the best way of going about it is an open question. The F-18 platform has shown that it's possible but it's also much more mature, having had many decades to work out the bugs. There's also the question of how they managed to talk the navy into a single engine platform but that's a rant for another day...

Note: the first list was never all deployed at the same time on the same carrier AFAIK. They travel as squadrons between carriers depending on the carriers mission. The second gets deployed together regularly as they comprise the bare minimum for an operational air wing.


>premature with the unexpected turn into asymmetric warfare

This boggles the mind. The US military have had trouble facing asymmetrical opponents close to continually since the Vietnam war. It's not like they haven't had time to see it coming.

I think the embarrassment that was the Millennium Challenge war game[0] showed just how out of touch the top brass is.

[0]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Millennium_Challenge_2002


It's not about actually figting the war. It's about maintaining the capability so that China doesn't push around Japan, Korea, etc in a way that is bad for US economic interests.


Can you blame them? I mean come on, it is called a Warthog, it looks like one and has the unexpectedly unpleasant personality of one. Adorable :)


> Vietnam era seekers that would fly into the sun

Hehe. Have a link?


It was first experienced by Taiwanese F-86 pilots during the Quemoy clashes with China in 1958. Their AIM-9B early-model Sidewinders had unfiltered seekers that considered the Sun as attractive a target as jet exhaust. Later models had bandpass filters to prevent that.

The contemporary AIM-4 Falcon missile had a much more sophisticated seeker but had to be cooled before firing and was useless once the coolant ran out, for example if the pilot took too long to get a lock.

Modern IR-guided missiles use imaging IR sensors and actually recognise target shapes.


It was worse than that. The sidewinder worked fairly well, but the other missiles took 4 seconds to arm, so got many US pilots killed. Top Gun was created because the US was in a draw with the Soviet-advised N. Vietnamese air force.


Does anybody in the industry know why there was a push to move away from specific role planes that excel in one area to ones that can do any area decently?

It's the same disease that McNamara caught, resulting in the F-111. The F-111 was supposed to be the super plane for the Navy and the air superiority platform for the Air Force. Synergistic with this is that idea that there would be no more dogfighting and it would all be done with missiles.

Tactical data sharing, complex systems like missiles, and the infrastructure which supports them all involve a lot of planning. No plan survives contact with the enemy.


There's nothing wrong with the idea of having multirole aircraft. Hell, the EuroFighter was originally designed as an air superiority fighter, but is used for a variety of ground attack missions as well. And the F-35 isn't intended to replace the B2 Spirit stealth bomber, nor the A-10 (though the USAF would really like to); it is meant to replace the F/A-18 and F-15, which are themselves multirole aircraft.

The issue with the F-35 isn't that it is intended to perform both air superiority and ground attack missions. The basic objection to the F-35 is designing a single airframe with several variants capable of conventional takeoff and landing (F35-A), short takeoff and vertical landing (F35-B), and catapult assisted takeoff and arrested recovery (F35-C). These are completely different ways of taking off and landing, with different design constraints, and it is difficult to create an airframe that can be modified to perform any of them. That's the primary philosophical objection to the F35, at least. There's another whole debate about whether we need aircraft dedicated for the close air support role (like the A-10), and the rest of the complaints are specific to F35 design choices.


>It can't beat the EuroFighter in a dog fight

It's not clear that this is the case. While the Eurofighter is better in a turning fight, it may not matter against the f35. The f35's stealth helps it choose the engagement parameters but the f35 has another advantage in a dogfight. Apparently it has the bizarre ability to point its nose very quickly allowing it to casually snap off kill shots with a minimum of fuss.

All the earlier reports of f35 dog fighting abilities involved very early f35 models which were operating under pretty severe software restrictions. In addition, no one really understood the f35's flight characteristics so they were trying to fly them like f16's and f15's, which is a big problem. Every fighter aircraft must flown differently based on its flight characteristics.


There was a movie Pentagon Wars about this type of scope creep.

See this 10m clip https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aXQ2lO3ieBA


> can't match the stealth bomber for ordinance carried

It's "ordnance", not "ordinance". Different words.


Apologies. That makes sense to me too off of the way I've heard it pronounced.


Over a trillion dollars over 28 years. There are about 250 million U.S. taxpayers. That's $150 out of the pocket of every single taxpayer, every year, just to cover the cost of this one monumentally embarrassing failure. If you're a U.S. citizen born after 1974, you've been setting fire to this money annually for your entire adult life. No value has been provided other than as a government subsidy to military contractors, and if the whole point is just to transfer wealth to military contractors then we might as well just call it a subsidy and have them sit on their hands rather than continually embarrass us with their empirical incompetence. It's hard not to seethe with rage at the thought of all the better things that this money could have been spent on. I look forward to wasting my tax dollars on this boondoggle for the rest of my life.


Sure, some of the money has gone to a small number of rich people, but there's quite a large number of working class people designing and assembling these planes. To say that the money has been set on fire or that no value has been provided seems a bit harsh, much of the money is employing a large number of skilled people in the USA and in other countries. And it's not just the USA taxpayers who are paying for this, these planes are sold to a few different customer countries.


"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone.

It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.

The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities.

It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population.

It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some 50 miles of concrete highway.

We pay for a single fighter plane with a half million bushels of wheat.

We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people.

This, I repeat, is the best way of life to be found on the road the world has been taking.

This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron."

--President Dwight Eisenhower


nice quotation.

We pay for a single fighter plane with a half million bushels of wheat.

Here's an attempt to update that comparison:

The lowest estimate I could find for one F35 is about $110 million. One bushel of wheat has ranged from $5 to $6 recently. I'll use $6 here.

At these prices an F35 would buy more than 18 million bushels of wheat, or 36 times as much as Eisenhower's 500,000 estimate.

https://www.popularmechanics.com/military/weapons/a21776/f-3...

https://www.nasdaq.com/markets/wheat.aspx


Thank you for sharing this beautiful quote.


No problem. I've always found it fascinating that a military general turned President warned us so strongly against the dangers of the military-industrial complex.


I think Eisenhower gets too much credit here. If anyone was ever well-placed to prevent the rise of MIC, it was a five-star general two-term president who just happened to be president exactly when MIC was consolidating its Korean War gains. Ike was like "holy crap this horrible thing happened on my watch but I had no idea!" The most charitable interpretation is that he acquiesced in the burgeoning abomination to protect his son's military career.


All of those skilled workers could have been building something useful, however. The waste of their time and skill is indeed burning resources, in an even more concrete sense than setting money on fire.


> those skilled workers could have been building something useful

I wouldn't say the F-35 is useless. It contains a breathtaking integration of advanced technologies. There are benefits to that R&D. It's also an incredibly capable platform–the principle complaint is it's too capable, that we could have gotten more bang for our bucks with more less-capable planes.


> I wouldn't say the F-35 is useless.

You're right. After 28 years and $1 trillion it FINALLY delivered a single bomb in Afghanistan two weeks ago.

Not totally useless.


Made all the more impressive by the fact that the Smithsonian Museum could very well deliver a bomb in Afghanistan, if only they would dust off a P-51 Mustang, or, say, the Wright Flyer. The Taliban (or whatever today's antagonist is that we're using to excuse this pointless war) aren't exactly known for their extensive^W existent air force.


Does any of that R&D get shared publicly or is it one of those things where the talent that designed it eventually goes on to different companies and the research spreads that way?


You’re not wrong but the entire point here is efficiency. I have no doubt that allocated with the right teams we could inovate more with 500 million dollars. Or .5% of this project’s cost.


If the cost is 1T, it's 0.05%.


> There are benefits to that R&D.

For Lockheed Martin. Are they obligated to publish their R&D findings for the Pentagon or anyone else?


In some ways, the point of war is to burn resources for no reason. Solving the crisis of overproduction. So if we can do it with less war, maybe that's a step in the right direction.


> the crisis of overproduction

If something is overproduced, it accumulates and/or falls in price. There is no "crisis of overproduction," though there may be a "crisis of underinvestment in research" and "crisis of underemployment," both problems the American military budget addresses.


If it were pitched as R&D then sure, that's fine.


But then they would have time to be politically active enough to demand better living conditions and social safety.


They could be, but if the program didn't exist, our economic system would not have allocated their labour to productive ends.


How do you know that? If the economy had an extra trillion dollars to allocate, there would be a massive number of alternative activities these workers would have had available.

Either the tax money would have been collected anyway, and spent somewhere. Or the tax money would not have been collected and it would have been "naturally" allocated by the population.


Well in the worst case, we can just have the gov't allocate it like they did here. Just have it go to building infrastructure or something. Repair our old bridges and roadways. Or maybe fund some schools. Or at least put build something cool and shiny for scientific research? Like fusion or space travel or particle accelerators.


That's a fairly conclusive statement with no objective basis. Care to elaborate?


We have millions of unemployed people, and much work that needs to be done (Teaching, childcare, elderly care, infrastructure maintenance, construction, etc.)

Why aren't they doing it? Could it be because we don't optimize for 'overall value created'?


A well-known German comedian has lines in his performance that are along the lines of "Doesn't anyone think of the jobs in the dynamite stick industry?" (in relation to suicide bomber prevention, which at the time was more of a topic than right now) as a response to German government worries that higher environmental standards for cars could cause job loss in the German car industry.

Or another point of view: You think those people can either build overpriced planes or nothing at all (paying them to do community service or work on open source projects might even be preferable)?

The US (and all countries) actually do have quite a large sector of state-planned economy. Discussions about whether a country really needs to have a military more capable than the next ten (or whatever number it currently is) countries combined aside, the actual main purpose from the point of view of most politicians is to be able to have government handouts for their constituents, military results are secondary because given the huge amount of resources spent overall they'll win anyway. But instead of calling for everything to be a "free market" (whatever that means), maybe admitting that maybe a large state sector is useful might help find other places to spend such huge sums. Right now the by far most convenient way is the emotions-laden "defense". Part of the problem is that we give politicians no other choice to use money, military is the only sector where they can get away with it. Oh yes, social spending, but that does not lead to production or research or at least not nearly on a similar enough scale, besides, it is much more under attack than military spending.


What if those skilled workers' productivity had been applied toward something that people actually wanted? Even if 900 billion of that went back into the economy, then those skilled laborers have been spending this time outputting far less than their value.


Well, I actually wanted the F-22, but for some reason I doubt that is what you meant. About 5000 should do, which is nothing compared to what we built under difficult wartime conditions in World War II.

I also wanted redundant protection from incoming enemy ICBMs.


I see someone else has already brought the quote from Dwight D Eisenhower, but I would like to hoist a quote of my own from a previous thread: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18179654

Since WW2, the question "if this doesn't work, am I or someone I know going to get killed?" has been false for the people designing, organising, funding and procuring these systems.


Sure, that money actually paid people to do work and those people were then able to stimulate the economy, pay for their education, all that good stuff.

But that same money could have been spent to actually do something useful and it still would have had that economic impact.

*And now I see where everyone else already made this extremely obvious point.


We spent $1 trillion on the war in Iraq in 10 years. Another trillion in Afghanistan. Our budget deficit starting next year will be $1 trillion a year for the next decade.

While I think the F35 project was a mess, there are even bigger problems in comparison.

The interest on the debt is going to grow to an incredible amount:

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/the-skyrocketing-interest-payme...


There's no reason to suspect that my opposition to the F-35 implies support for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In fact, I'll be explicit: the Iraq and Afghanistan wars were and are shameful, deplorable wastes of human life and resources.


"Over the next decade, interest costs will total nearly $7 trillion, rising to become the third-largest 'program' in the federal budget."

If you thought a trillion dollars over thirty years for the most advanced jet in the world was a lot of money, how do you feel about getting absolutely nothing for $7 trillion?


It’s even worse, since there is also the opportunity cost of what could have been done with all the time & materials. A purely direct wealth transfer of the net profit would at least save that all, which could have gone into something else.

And possibly also environmental costs.


This is an overreaction.

The F35 is a maturing platform. Issues are being ironed out and the result will be an incredible aircraft far beyond any other fighter currently flown. There is a product.

The run away price tag certainly shows inefficiencies of contracting at this scale. Accountability is not really there for companies that do not perform to the level required to honor their contracts. Patents, required expertise, and other logistical hurdles keep competitors few.

Building military systems is not software, there are so many considerations and potential roadblocks. Tests cost millions and take months to years. Think of how difficult and expensive it is to make an iPhone--iPhones don't have to perform deft aerial maneuvers at Mach speed, win the (complex as hell) radar/sensor game of cat&mouse, and hit things with missiles. $1 trillion sounds like a lot, but keep in mind our beloved iPhone company is worth about that much. My iPhone 8 certainly provides me more direct value as an individual, but the capability of an F35 is not a cheap thing.


I mean it's not like the money just went into a hole. These things were built by U.S. factories. Not the best use of taxpayer money by any means, and we are right to be angry, I just want to point that out.


I mean it's not like the money just went into a hole.

It went into a big ol' hole that had a billboard next to it labelled "Opportunity Cost".


Misallocating labor is worse than throwing the money into a hole. The money itself doesn't matter, it's just an accounting tool.


How do you ratify the hidden benefits of advanced researches going along with the aircraft? Have you seen the flight helmet with integrated HUD? I think it is out of this world. And it is just one of the many advanced technologies created in the process. Saying this is a waste of money is akin to say NASA mission is a waste of money.


I hate the argument that we should tolerate wasteful military spending because it sometimes creates accidentally results in useful applications. For $1 trillion dollars, how many millions of worthwhile discoveries could have been devised by directly investing in scientific research?

Saying that military spending is a worthwhile vehicle for useful research is akin to saying that a worthwhile way to power a car is to use gasoline to heat a water boiler to drive a steam turbine. The inefficiency is astounding.


Broadly speaking...didn't we lose just the after tax profit that companies made? Of course there's an opportunity cost but this is FedGov, not exactly known for using tax dollars as best they could /should.


Is it that embarassing ? I couldn't find a good summary about the state of F-35s.

I don't think 150usd per year is a huge amount of money (12.5 per month). (Sure for some it's vital, I'm not saying this).

Military..


It amounts to about $100 million every single day, if that helps make the absurdity more clear.


> No value has been provided

Well... The US, and every country that's paying attention learned how not to build a military plane.


I'm kind of baffled by the number of people here defending this. I can only imagine that Americans have an emotional investment in their military that inclines them to overlook waste that they would never tolerate in any other area.


> I'm kind of baffled by the number of people here defending this

With literally trillions of dollars at stake, why wouldn't defense contractors set up "marketing" teams to defend it?

And the post above: "adversaries are posting about how bad it is to run support for it" -- a perfect dodge. If you're not supporting this gigantic fucking money pit then you're clearly in league with the enemy.


Considering that this has been flagged off the front page after receiving 92 upvotes in one hour, I'd say you may be on to something.


And the Trump tax cut will grow the debt by a trillion dollars in just 10 years[1]. So in a sense you and everyone else are just buying this on your credit card and letting your grand kids pay it off.

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/25/business/trump-corporate-...


Out of curiosity, does the 250 million taxpayers include tax paying businesses?


Nope, and although that suggests that $150 would be an overestimate (if we disregard the huge portion of taxes that are earmarked for social security, individual income tax contributes 80% of government revenue), this is countered by 1. the fact that the $1 trillion price tag is a low-ball estimate, 2. the fact that the tax base was 50 million fewer 30 years ago, and 3. the unlikelihood that the price tag is adjusting for inflation, which would increase the real value of contributions over the past 30 years (according to CPI, prices in 2017 were 87% higher than prices in 1990).


Aren't the same tax payers paying for the business taxes as well through the increased price of goods?


> "No value has been provided..."

There is value provided. These planes support the US world hegemony and are amazing centerpieces of the US military. If you argue that we could have done it for cheaper, that is fair. But there is value in them.


JDAMs, NATO, and the Petr-Dollar are doing more for US Hegemony than these overpriced drone-stop-gaps ever will.


Only if they work consistently, which they've yet to start doing.


At the turn of the century, the Wright brothers were building their bicycle planes.

Within 10 years, by the start of WW1 there were triplanes fit for war use. By the end of the war, Germany had metal planes with a single wing... not all that different from a modern crop duster.

Amazing what the competitive (and "save our nation") pressure of an industrial war can do.

Immediately after the great war, helicopters and all sorts of new planes were invented. By the time WW2 rolled around 20 years later, there were Spitfires & heavy bombers. Japan had floating airports. The sky became the place where land, naval and air battles were won or lost.

The pace kept up in the generation after the war. Jet engines. 3 generations of jet fighters, each outclassing the last. Airliners more or less like modern ones. The f-15 is still The Cavalary. 747s are not out of place in a modern airport. 1967 & 1977 respectively.

50 years of peace, 50 years of stagnation.

This is a lesson about people and a lesson about progress.


That's one way to explain the last 100 years, sure.

Another way: militaries around the world stumbled upon a new source of low-hanging fruit (air supremacy), one that could win wars with just the slightest investment, as long as the enemy had invested less/none. Technological progress sped up in the space as everyone exploited the low-hanging fruit. Then, having picked all the low-hanging fruit, further advances in avionics were now just as expensive as advances in any other domain—so the world's military spending moved back to a general balance.

This same thing happened for submarines, and for steel-hulled warships before that. When R&D has higher ROI (i.e. wins more battles for less money) than simply building more of what you've got, you invest in R&D. When it doesn't, you don't.

For the latest 50-year period, the low-hanging fruit in military spending has been satellite technology—i.e., C2 and intelligence superiority. GPS-guided ICBMs on the one hand; reports from spies delivered over Iridium on the other. We got the Internet and cell phones from this one, before it slowed down.

But this latest R&D "sprint" has indeed had most of its low-hanging fruit plucked as well, which is why we've lately seen military R&D spending leak away from satellites and back into other targets—including avionics R&D! (Sometimes a mesh-network of jet fighters works better than a satellite uplink. Expensive, though.)

Not sure what the world's next military R&D focus might be. Cyberwar, maybe, but that might be point-of-view bias.


OK. That's a possible antithesis.

It could be the ROI curve on the technology flattening out, the lack of competitive pressure or some combination.


I worked with one of the BIG defense contractors for a while. There was this guy, Willy. Willy was a 'fellow' with the company, an engineer so advanced and critical to the company that they just let him do whatever he wanted. One of his PhDs was in chemistry, I think he was about 80 years old back then (~2010). He did not use email at all. I thought it was crazy at the time, but man, was WIlly right about that one. If you wanted to see him, you'd have to go over to him and talk or drop off the memo. He had a phone, but it was the bar down the street from the campus, as Willy was usually there, watching a game or working on something.

I remember WIlly telling us about a time, back in the Cold War, when he'd be given briefcases with empty aluminum bottles inside. They'd tell him to measure the air inside and tell them if he found anything strange about that air, chemically speaking. He didn't say if he had discovered anything strange, though.

WIlly's general expertise was ablative nose-cone chemistry, for re-entry. In fact, as he told it, his brain was the entire field of ablative nose-cone chemistry; at least in The West. He never wrote anything down about it, at least not much. It was all in his head.

This is what Willy had on the company and he had them over a barrel. I came to find out that 'fellows' were just guys that had retired, had never written anything down, and then HAD to be re-hired, at any cost. They were the only non-soviets that knew the engineering about so much of what the company did. That's why Willy could just not do email and have a bar as his phone number and be a general asshat about things. He was literally untouchable.

In fact, there were a lot of 'fellows' at the company. And it bled them dry [0].

In my view, that is why so much of the US's defense tech is going 'backwards'. There just isn't the work force. They called it the 'silver tsunami' [1]. Basically, the US hired for the Cold War and just really never hired again. That's why drones have been so big in the last few years: no humans on board means easier reqs to go through so that even undergrads can get the work done. The same is somewhat true in space and all the other aspects of warfighting.

So it's not just that the low-hanging fruit is already plucked, though I totally agree with you. It's that there just isn't the workforce anymore. It's a complicated issue, so it's going to have a lot of things that are 'wrong' with it and no one aspect is THE problem.

That said, the cyberwar has been going on for a while now. I'd look at CRISPR-CAS9 and optogenetics as the bleeding edge frontiers to get into.

[0] https://www.bizjournals.com/philadelphia/blog/real-estate/20...

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Silver_Tsunami


> I came to find out that 'fellows' were just guys that had retired, had never written anything down, and then HAD to be re-hired, at any cost.

You'd think that if there's information in someone's head that a defense contractor can construe as "crucial to the building of the country's war-fighting competency" (i.e. "we can't build the damn planes/missiles you're depending on without that guy"), they could, for example:

• Get Congress to subpoena the person's "testimony" for a closed session of the Intelligence Subcommittee.

• Get the president to Commission the person as a military officer, and then immediately court-martial them for not doing their duty to the state by withholding the information.

• Just plain charge the person with treason, same as if they knowingly sabotaged the planes.


Do you believe any of those options would be cheaper (monetarily or politically) than just paying a couple of engineers more salary?


In that approach, eventually the engineer dies of old age, at which point costs go to infinity.


Diminishing returns are definitely a thing. But the technology of mass destruction peaked in the 60s with the invention of the ICBM: finally we had the power to destroy everything. Where can you really go from there?

The cutting edges are missile interception (Iron Dome), drones for urban combat, and hybrid/deniable warfare.


It might seem like stagnation but we have made rapid advancements in other sectors (the mobile computing revolution being an example). About air travel, I think the evolution has been more about safety than anything else ever since (barring exception of concorde which tried to optimize for speed). The modern passenger jet is much safer than its 60s counterpart.


Don't let anybody give you a hard time for saying "at the turn of the century." I keep writing 1999 on my checks, too.


Former Air Force here. Standard thing. Not big news.



That was a very educational tweet steam. I hadn't heard of 2/3rds of the issues he raised.


I'd take some of it with a grain of salt. He brought up one point about peeling paint and requiring special hangars. But outside of the RT article he linked to, I can't find mention of that elsewhere. I didn't look into all of his points, but that one struck as me a little ridiculous even for this flying bucket of crap... which makes me question some of his other tweets in that stream.


>Every time they're flown, they have to be repainted. And because the F-35's fuel is heat sensitive, EVERY TRUCK THAT CARRIES IT ALSO has to be painted with a special heat-resistant paint.

I would be INCREDIBLY surprised if the F-35 were to use a different fuel than standard.


Ah it seems this is misquoted. Not the best source, but it gives a more plausible explanation https://foxtrotalpha.jalopnik.com/the-f-35-cant-run-on-warm-...

Tl;dr: if fuel stays in the sun it gets too hot and the plane won't run


I can't find a source for a lot of the things he says... Norway is parking their F-35s outside under tarps while they build hangers, so the 0% humidity thing seems questionable


So he's undecided?


sensationalist headlines at best. grounding is temporary for 24-48 hours due to crash in sc


Pretty standard response -- inspect everything to make sure there aren't any more of the faulty components (which evidently they've identified, which is a bit surprising in terms of speed), and then let them fly again. Happens all the time.


This surprised me:

"If suspect fuel tubes are installed, the part will be removed and replaced. If known good fuel tubes are already installed, then those aircraft will be returned to flight status."

How do they not know this? What if we were at war?


What exactly are you asking?


For 24-48 hours.


I haven't been paying any specific attention to F-35 news, but I can only ever recall reading negative press.

I know this particular project has been extra troubled, but is that the norm for new military vessels/vehicles?


There's a film called The Pentagon Wars that seems to describe the exact same issues in regards to the Bradley fighting vehicle, so while I can't say if it's the norm, it certainly isn't unique.


That film pretty much sense the lens through which I view all government spending. It's a fantastic watch, and I highly recommend it.


It's very much the norm. The JSF is the safest program that's ever been fielded -- the Osprey had multiple crashes and fatalities at this stage of its development.

Government procurement needs an overhaul, and this program has been badly over budget and time, but it is delivering a successful product.


> It's very much the norm. The JSF is the safest program that's ever been fielded -- the Osprey had multiple crashes and fatalities at this stage of its development.

Is that per flight hour or some other metric? Care to provide a link?


The F-35 is at over 100,000 flight hours[1], and the Osprey is at around 400,000. The Osprey hit 100k hours in 2001[2], by which point it had 6 crashes and 34 deaths, most of which were in the United States [3]. The V-22 deaths have been mostly passengers, so technically it's not a fair comparison since the F-35 only seats one. However, this was the first F-35 crash and it has had zero deaths, making the number of people on the plane a moot point.

[1]: https://www.f35.com/news/detail/lockheed-martin-f-35s-surpas...

[2]: http://www.defense-aerospace.com/articles-view/release/3/123...

[3]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Accidents_and_incidents_involv...


While I very much acknowledge the Osprey program failures, the claim was that the JFS is the safest program ever fielded.


Well it's a JSF, not a JFS, and similar comparisons can be made to the Harrier, the F16, and F18. I don't have the numbers in front of me at the moment but they're roughly as bad as the MV-22 numbers (in terms of class A mishaps, not personnel casualties as they're single seat/dual seat aircraft) based on my recollection. MV-22's numbers are a bit inflated in terms of casualties due to a single crash that killed about 12 people as I recall.

The fact that the JSF has 100k flight hours and one total aircraft loss and 0 fatalities is unheard of.


It's the norm for any new generation fighter, but the F-35 is easily the most complex platform ever developed.

Debugging the F-22 took over a decade, and there's still intermittent problems. That was a platform started in 1981 and tested in 1997.

The F-35 by virtue of having reinvented everything from the helmet to the engine is in for a lot more trouble. It started in 1992 and had a first flight in 2006, ten years after the F-22's first.

If the F-22 is any benchmark the F-35 has another decade of trouble, possibly more.


It's the norm for new instances of categories which are nearing the end of their viability because costs of protecting them against the current threat environment dwarfs utility; the F-35 also fell victim to a flawed strategy to mitigate the costs inherent to that situation by a common project for many different roles.


I'm not an expert by any means, but as far as I know a lot of the issues are partially attributable to the fact the F-35 is trying to do everything for everyone. If that's true then I imagine planes that try to do one thing well have fewer issues on average.


When you realize that the point of the F35 is to be a realistic Iron-man suit for the pilot, then you realize what is really going on.

There are some issues of pork-spending as well. A lot of representatives who weren't on board with the project got jobs delivered to their districts instead. (IE: Build the engine in this state, so that the citizens you represent get a job-creator in their region). Sure, politics is a bit dirty, but that's how you get things done today.

It doesn't seem like the most efficient project, but it has to be a project that everyone supports monetarily. F35, for all of its faults, won't have any issues financially due to how politics were played. But a lot of people are uncomfortable with how politics works at all.


Yes it is, for American weapons systems at least. And it has been so for many decades now. It's extremely common for the first version of a new weapons system to have major (or even disastrous) flaws that only get ironed out in later revisions at great expense.

Here's one example. Today's median American soldier's primary weapon is the M4 carbine (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M4_carbine), which by all accounts is a solid piece of kit that has acquitted itself well in Iraq and Afghanistan.

But the M4 is the end of a long line of revisions made to an older weapon, the M16 rifle (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M16_rifle), which first rolled out during the Vietnam War. And the first version of the M16 was so bad it got a lot of soldiers killed.

See, rifles have a lot of moving parts, which typically means they have to be well-maintained -- periodically stripped down into parts, and then all the parts individually cleaned and lubed -- or else they start to malfunction. Maintaining their weapon was a standard part of a soldier's job; not something anyone enjoyed doing, but something they did because they didn't want their rifle to fail on them in combat.

But Colt, the makers of the M16, advertised it as a revolution in small arms -- a "self-cleaning" rifle that used Space Age materials to remove the need for all that fussy work. And so, when the Defense Department rolled out the M16 to the troops in Vietnam, it didn't bother to issue any of the usual cleaning tools along with them.

Which meant that a lot of soldiers found themselves in an awkward spot when it turned out that Colt's testing processes for the "self-cleaning" M16 hadn't really accounted for the rough jungle conditions of Vietnam. M16s started jamming all over, frequently so seriously that the entire weapon was rendered useless; and even if the soldiers carrying them had wanted to start cleaning them to try and prevent those jams, they lacked the tools they'd need to do so. So soldiers started getting killed, shot down in battle while frantically struggling to un-jam their bricked rifles.

The situation got so bad that it prompted a Congressional investigation, which found a host of reliability problems with the M16. Colt went back to work and created a revised version, the M16A1, which mostly resolved those issues. The M16A1, notably, was not advertised as self-cleaning. And when it finally rolled out, it came not only with a set of cleaning tools, but with a comic book-style manual by the famous comic artist Will Eisner explaining exactly how to use them (which you can read here: http://www.astrotx.com/M-16A1%20Rifle.pdf).

And then there were even more revisions developed; the M16 remained the Army's standard rifle through the early 2000s. And then it was replaced by the M4, which was just a shorter, lighter, even more further developed M16. So eventually the government was able to throw enough money at a terrible weapon to turn it into a decent one.

It's a shame so many grunts had to die along the way, of course. But hey, Colt got paid twice! You know?


> And when it finally rolled out, it came not only with a set of cleaning tools, but with a comic book-style manual by the famous comic artist Will Eisner explaining exactly how to use them (which you can read here: http://www.astrotx.com/M-16A1%20Rifle.pdf).

That's an amazing piece of technical writing. The chick with the camel toe is probably a little much and wouldn't fly these days, but I'd love to have something like this to issue to Jr. Network Engineers.

"Spiderman explains how Spanning Tree works"


Thank you for the history lesson, that was thoroughly enjoyable! Bonus points for the comic book manual.


Quote: "The US government's accountability office estimates all costs associated with the project will amount to one trillion dollars."

What a waste. The money could be better spent, and I'm not referring to spending money on something better than a weapons system. That money could buy a lot more gun-power that a buggy fleet of fighter planes that will soon be soon with the rise of drones.


I hope they are also assessing the risk posed by hardware supply line hacks, regardless if the Bloomsberg article is factual. There are other concerns... https://foreignpolicy.com/2018/10/09/many-u-s-weapons-system...


> The crash in South Carolina involved an F-35B, which is able to land vertically and costs around $100m

And earlier it mentions a total cost of the program of 1 trillion dollars. So we'd have to sell at least 10000 planes to have any hope of recouping the costs??


We aren't trying to recoup costs, The program also includes all service and support, repairs, etc.


I don't think the United States created the F-35 program with the hopes to turn a profit by selling them.


Are there any good, dedicated DoD blogs/websites? Most of the stuff I read about defense comes from more general news sites.


War is Boring


DefenseNews


Probably the biggest engineering project fiasco of modern times.

The money invested in this F-35 project could probably solve the homeless problem.


If only it were permanent.


Why? Air superiority is important for power projection.

Edit:

So I'm getting a comments here that are much lower-quality than I expect from this place.

Geopolitics is not like interpersonal relationships. There is nobody governing governments. It's a free-for-all, literally the state of nature. In societies it seems like "Might makes right" is a dated concept, but you have to remember that's within the frame of a governed society. Geopolitically we're literally in a kill-or-be-killed mode.

There is no game-theoretical solution to geopolitics except to be able to defend yourself with deadly force. At a minimum you must be able to inflict enough damage on other geopolitical entities to disincentivize them from projecting their power within your borders. A better solution is to have as much be able to inflict so much damage other geopolitical entities can't do this to you so that you have the choice to deploy that power wisely, as opposed to not having the opportunity to deploy it wisely.

The military dominance of the US post-WW2 has unambiguously been a stabilizing force on the world. I understand that doesn't guarantee it will continue to be so, but that isn't an argument against game-theoretical geopolitical realities.

We can't let the fact that we're inside a governed society make us forget what it's like outside a governed society. Acting like geopolitical dynamics are like social dynamics is profoundly stupid.


Your comment post-edit is pretty much the reason I read HN.

This model of geopolitics as an ungoverned society of nations is something I’ve never considered.

Then, the natural tendency of people within governed societies to analyze geopolitics as if governed social dynamics applied to it could clearly lead to some disastrous conclusions.

It also illuminates the tension between people who greatly value our military, and people who are just frustrated with it and casually declare from their bedrooms and TV studios that we should cut spending in half because it’s all such a waste. As if nations are nice people, and as if a weapon provides no value unless it is used.

Both groups mostly want the same things: a safe place to live, explore, work, have friends and family, and enjoy their lives. They just have a different model for how they understand geopolitics and the state that it’s in.

Lately I’ve noticed an increase in politically-motivated downvotes on HN. I think that’s really unfortunate. This was probably comment of the year for me.


Appreciate it.

It also reveals a weird logic I can't wrap my head around. If you vote, and you think others should vote, you believe that we have significant influence on politics. So if we abandoned our military dominance, what other country is going to fill that power vacuum? Do we trust their country with that power, a country which might or might not have a government that is influenced by its populace? Honestly, who are the other players that would likely make such a move... China, Russia, and the EU? Well, unless you're particularly fond of two of those governments, I don't like your odds.

Isn't it better to just keep the military dominance here, with a government influenced by the people, pretty much half of which are strongly opposed to the mobilization of that power? Absent some unintuitive answer to that question, I don't see the consistency of a person who thinks we should "get out and vote" genuinely wanting to degrade US military dominance.


Air superiority is the role played by the F-15 Eagle and the F-22 Raptor.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Air_superiority_fighter


The Wikipedia definition of air supremacy [1] does not restrict the role to air-to-air fighter aircraft. Also, air supremacy is a stated mission of the F-35 [2].

[1]: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Air_supremacy

[2]: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lockheed_Martin_F-35_Lightni...


yeah, that's the kissinger line of thought. "realism". except it doesn't hold up to reality, at least not in the modern or even the premodern era.

iceland has no military, and no real political or economic significance in the world. it has no genuine allies to whom it is worthwhile. why doesn't anyone/everyone invade them? nobody would risk a major war over them. they're what could amount to a strategically useful port. they might have some minerals or something. it wouldn't even be hard.

the answer is that nobody cares to. just as you don't bother taking a free cupcake at a catered event because you're not hungry, the world's governments do not necessarily increase their own power on the international stage with perfect game-theory play.

so, "air superiority is important for power projection", sure. if you were playing perfect game-theory and optimizing your country's power to the very limit of what is theoretically possible, you'd always buy the best air superiority solution. except we don't really see anyone else doing that. russia doesn't, and china doesn't. why? the answer is that they are sated with their current solution, even if it isn't the maximum possible solution. they're not interested in exerting the effort that it would take to build something like the f-35 because they recognize that it wouldn't improve their state's power enough that it would enable them to do anything new, nor is doing anything new such a big concern given that their main security issues are internal rather than external.

true geopolitical "realism" is realizing that the idea of 100% pervasive and cynical power maximization is an artifact of the american mind. countries are far more benign than kissinger ever expected.


First, yes, Iceland would be easy to occupy. In fact, it's already happened once - the UK occupied it during WWII (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Invasion_of_Iceland).

But holding it would be a problem, for anyone except the US or the UK. Let's say China occupied Iceland. How are they going to send supplies to their troops there? Well, by air or by ocean. That's going to be... problematic. It's going to be much more problematic if NATO lives up to its charter and defends its' member Iceland.


> iceland has no military, and no real political or economic significance in the world. it has no genuine allies to whom it is worthwhile. why doesn't anyone/everyone invade them? nobody would risk a major war over them. they're what could amount to a strategically useful port. they might have some minerals or something. it wouldn't even be hard.

> the answer is that nobody cares to.

This is an over-simplification of truly mind-boggling caliber.


This is an incredibly unpersuasive response. You don't like the post? Fine. But correct it rather than just dissing it.


Some things don't deserve a response. In that cases it's perfectly acceptable to note this and move on with your life.

If you correct every brain-dead thing people tell you on the internet, either never say anything remotely controversial so you don't get ill-informed but confident replies, you spend all day correcting people, or you literally just started saying things on the internet to tell me how to live my life.


> Some things don't deserve a response.

But you responded anyway. You just didn't respond with anything useful. So what you did, essentially, was waste 10,000 people's time by having them look at your non-response "response".


okay mom ::rolls eyes::


no more of an over-simplification than kissinger's concept of realism, to be blunt.

countries routinely do things that are contrary to the interest of maximizing their net power, and claiming "but it's anarchy out there!" isn't very accurate.


I didn't say a word about Kissinger.

If you need to pretend someone is arguing something they've never argued so you can disagree with them, you really need to take a step back and ask yourself what the fuck you're really doing.


iceland has no military, and no real political or economic significance in the world. it has no genuine allies to whom it is worthwhile

Iceland is a founding member of NATO and is located in the backyard of two of the world’s most powerful navies. The Royal Navy spent the entire Cold War thinking about GIUK. Arguably its a free-rider in NATO but the idea anyone could invade it is laughable


Do you really think that someone would attack the USA if they hadn't air superiority ?


Taiwan would fall. If the UN didn't establish air superiority during the Korean War, an entire country would have lost its freedom and would now be under a dictatorship.

Nowadays pretty much, if one side can establish air superiority, the other side is relegated to guerilla tactics. In terms of geopolitics in 2018, it's pretty much about air and naval bases.


> If the UN didn't establish air superiority during the Korean War, an entire country would have lost its freedom and would now be under a dictatorship.

This is a little bit silly. South Korea was ruled by various dictatorships for decades after the war. North Korea still is.


> > If the UN didn't establish air superiority during the Korean War, an entire country would have lost its freedom and would now be under a dictatorship.

> This is a little bit silly. South Korea was ruled by various dictatorships for decades after the war. North Korea still is. In South Korea today, you have one of the most vibrant economies in the world.

Sorry, but you're more than a bit silly. South Korea was ruled by dictatorships, post Korean War. However, this was a transitional period to today. In South Korea, you don't have camps where entire families are sent, basically to die, because someone said the wrong thing.

One half of my family is from present-day North Korea. My grandfather was a physician and entrepreneur. He had to move the family south because he could see what was coming. My mother remembers being smuggled in a pitch-black compartment of a freighter. She also remembers walking down the road with the family's belongings strapped to her back. A stack of bills, thick from wartime inflation, likely saved the life of my grandmother.

I and my sister wouldn't even exist, were it not for the Korean War and US intervention. All you have to do, to see the difference between the Koreas, is to look at nighttime pictures from orbit. All of the vibrancy of present-day South Korea was enabled by the intervention. The amount of human happiness that was allowed and the amount of human misery that was avoided by that is vast.


Power-projection is about using our resources to most effectively influence others. Its not about defense, but about offense.

IIRC, the Iraq and Afghanistan wars were supported by two Super-Carrier strike-groups stationed in the Indian ocean. Super-carriers, by themselves, can take on multiple foreign army bases.

Super-carriers however, are very weak defensively. If any war were to seriously start vs the US, the super-carriers would almost instantly fall to a series of cruise missiles (aka: suicide drones from the 1970s). I mean, we've got some anti-missile protection ships around them, but its cheaper to build 2000 cruise missiles than 1 super-carrier + its fleet of aircraft.

-------

Anyway, the point of power-projection is that these bases are mobile. As we finish up our job in Afghanistan / Iraq, we can move these super-carriers elsewhere for support. Puerto Rico was serviced by a super-carrier Abraham Lincoln for instance (hospitals on board, + Helicopters delivered supplies), while the Super-Carrier Ronald Regan helped Japan clean-up the Fukashima Nuclear disaster.

Power-projection is more than just killing people. Its about building mobile bases around the world which can help people during disasters.

In fact, I'd argue that these super-carriers primarily deal with diplomatic details and are near useless in a conventional war.

Anyway, the F35 air superiority is an important piece of a super-carrier. Winning any dogfight by destroying approaching aircraft before they're even on the horizon is an important piece of the puzzle... keeping the Super-carriers well defended.

Furthermore, the F35's stealth capabilities project power many miles away. Remember that an F35 looks like a baseball to radar installations, its stealth capabilities are incredibly advanced, and only a few nations can even detect the thing. So the radius that these aircraft project beyond the mobile Super-Carrier Strike Force is huge, and a huge benefit to the USA.

Obviously, no sane person wants to actually use these weapons to kill people. But they can be used to get an edge on diplomacy. In the worst case, if we are forced to use military might to solve a problem, the F35 will be useful.


People forget that gunboat diplomacy is literally a violence deterrent. There is no better solution to geopolitcal mass-murder than to be so god-damn scary we can resolve things without death.

Sure, you can do a lot of bad shit with gunboat diplomacy - but giving up dominance doesn't eliminate bad shit, it just creates a power vacuum - which will be filled either by another geopolitical entity with the capability to do that bad shit or geopolitical violence on a massive scale.

Getting rid of our army does not lead to peace. I can't understand how any adult thinks it will, or is willing to act like it will.


"Anyway, the point of power-projection is that these bases are mobile. As we finish up our job in Afghanistan / Iraq, we can move these super-carriers elsewhere for support. Puerto Rico was serviced by a super-carrier Abraham Lincoln for instance (hospitals on board, + Helicopters delivered supplies), while the Super-Carrier Ronald Regan helped Japan clean-up the Fukashima Nuclear disaster."

I know that's reality but using aircraft carriers for disaster relief is an awfully expensive way to do this.


I'm unsure if any other sea-bearing vessel has a ton of helicopters that can deliver supplies to and from a remote area (ie: Puerto Rico once all the roads were wiped out by Hurricane Maria).

Helicopters need an area to land and refuel. The pilots need an area to sleep. Carriers seem like the ideal service vehicle.

And sure, the Nimitz class carrier, with two nuclear reactors and outfitted with enough weaponry to take on entire countries... is a bit overkill. But there are benefits to a mobile super sea-base.

The alternative is to build a ton of smaller carriers... but smaller carriers can't launch airplanes. You need a large area so that planes can land. Airplanes like Airborne early Warning (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Airborne_early_warning_and_con...) can be launched from super-carriers.

Once you have radar-dishes in the air however, you now need to think about how to defend those radar-dishes from enemy fighters. And then we get the F35.


While carriers are certainly used in this role, I've taken part in two such missions while deployed with the USS Ronald Reagan, there are ships that are more capable in handling humanitarian and disaster relief, and non-combatant evacuation efforts, such as LHDs -- which also have a larger complement of helicopters/V-22s and ground-troop support than a carrier.


> The alternative is to build a ton of smaller carriers... but smaller carriers can't launch airplanes.

Outside of the US supercarriers, all other carriers are smaller, and many launch planes (often V/STOL aircraft, particularly commonly Harriers.)


Fair. But still, the point stands. The shorter the runway, the fewer planes you can launch.

And yes, there's a catapult to help launch the planes, but the longer the runway, the less stress you put on the planes, and the more kinds of airplanes can land on your carrier.

US Supercarriers have more than just fighter-jets, they also have larger cargo aircraft like: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grumman_C-2_Greyhound. Capable of delivering 5-tons of cargo over 1300 miles.

I don't believe Britain (which does have fleets of smaller carriers) have any support for such a large cargo-aircraft. They're limited to helicopter delivery. Long-range delivery is most efficient with wing-aircraft.

I'm not an expert on the HMS Queen Elizabeth carrier. Are you aware of any cargo-aircraft ability of the smaller carrier? (And mind you: The Queen Elizabeth is the 2nd largest carrier-class in the world. So even if it can do it, the fact remains that you need to build BIG carriers if you wish to support remote delivery of cargo through aircrafts)


One of the consequences of the F-35B being late and over budget is that the uk now have a brand new carrier with no fixed-wing planes.


If the US were to permanently lose a big chunk of its airpower, Taiwan would have to rejoin China soon after.


This assumes that the F-35 is essential for maintaining air superiority, which is unsupported.


I'd take F-22s over F-35 for air superiority and ship-launched cruise missiles for ground attacks.


Ship launched cruise missiles for close air support? I'm skeptical. F-22's are better for air superiority, but the F-35 was designed as a bomb and missile truck. Potentially, it could do that job very, very well.


And the fact that the artillery(and the navy) is way better at deploying standoff range munitions then any fighter will ever be is a big part of the F-35 problem. Is it’s designed to do a job the artillery is better.

The problem here is that the one role where manned planes still makes sense is the high risk low altitude visual range infantry support role the Air Force brass don’t like as it means they ave to plan for the same kind of casualty rates as the infantry tend to sustain.

In a lot of ways that unwillingness to put infantry first is why the us have not had a independent military success since the horse mounted cavalry went obsolete.[1]

1: The two wold wars don’t count as the us general staff was not in charge of strategy in any of those conflicts.


> > ship-launched cruise missiles for ground attacks.

> Ship launched cruise missiles for close air support? I'm skeptical.

Perhaps you should be skeptical, but that's not at all what adrr said...


A part of the F-35's ground attack mission includes close air support. Of course, the F-35 also has massive drawbacks there as well.

In terms of force projection, it's the ability to shut down the enemy's close air support while providing it to your side which is part of the whole point of air superiority.


Considering the US won't formally recognize Taiwan, they are, according to the US government, already part of China so I guess we apparently don't need that 'big chunk' of our airpower.


If the US loses Taiwan as a potential staging area, geopolitics all around the South China Sea would change significantly. Basically, every country adjacent to the South China Sea would lose a big chunk of their autonomy.


Then perhaps they should recognize Taiwan and pledge to protect them. This current strategy of appeasement will only work for so long, airpower or not.


This current strategy of appeasement will only work for so long, airpower or not.

You are correct, in a way. As it turns out, Taiwan is very hard to conduct landings on. The seas there are very rough, and the weather would interfere in all but 2 weeks of the year. Also, there is very little coast suitable for an amphibious landing.

A landing on Taiwan could well make D-Day look like a cakewalk. However, China may grow its economy to the point, where it could still be feasible. In the meantime, the delaying action which you call "appeasement" is probably the best strategy for the US. Recognizing Taiwan would be a huge provocation of China, which is a potential tool best left for a future contingency.




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