16:09 GMT +3 hours25 August 2016
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Lockheed's F-35 features some of the most advanced autopilot technology available.

F-35 vs. LRS-B: Battle Brewing Behind Pentagon’s Closed Doors

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Development of the infamous F-35 fighter jet has already cost the Pentagon some $400 billion, and the program requires more funding before it can be declared fully operational. But, as the US Air Force sets its sights on its next-generation Long Range Strike-Bomber, defense officials are fighting over which plane should receive funding priority.

The most expensive military weapon in history, Lockheed Martin’s F-35 fighter has seen its share of setbacks. Yet, despite reports of faulty mechanics, cyber vulnerabilities, and inferiority when compared to its predecessors, the F-35 is still high on the Pentagon’s shopping list.

"[J]ust because it can’t out-turn an F-16, or just because it can’t go as fast, we are absolutely confident that [the] F-35 will be a war-winner," Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work said in November, according to Defense One.

"That is because it is using the machine to make the human make better decisions."

But as the Pentagon prepares to buy thousands of jets over the next two decades, it must also fund development of a new Long Range Strike-Bomber (LRS-B). That aircraft is desperately needed to replace the Air Force’s aging fleet.

"It demonstrates our commitment to our allies, and our determination to potential adversaries, making it crystal clear that the United States will continue to retain the ability to project power throughout the globe long into the future," Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said of the bomber in October, adding that the LRS-B represented "a strategic investment in the next 50 years."

As President Obama presents his military spending budget for 2017, defense officials are privately debating which project is more important.

"The F-35A and [the bomber] are almost certainly on a collision course," Todd Harrison, a budget analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Defense One. "The problem now is it does not look like we have a buildup of that [Reagan-era] magnitude on the horizon in the defense budget. We’re not going to see the budget increase by 30 percent in the near future here."

The Air Force plans to build 100 new bombers, expected to cost between $80 billion and $111 billion. It also plans to spend over $25 billion on 200 F-35s over the next four years. With spending caps in place, the defense budget – though still massive – isn’t the behemoth it used to be.

"The bomber versus [F-35] fight is one that is taking place inside the building right now," Mackenzie Eaglen of the American Enterprise Institute told Defense One.

Adding to the debate is the fact that the US Air Force also plans to spend heavily on a number of other aircraft in the coming years. Boeing has developed a new KC-46 refueling tanker and, given that the Air Force’s current fleet of tankers dates back to the 1950’s, these planes are in even greater demand than the LRS-B.

"The tanker is in a different category in the debate because the F-35 is useless without the tanker and the LRS-B…still needs tanking," Harrison said.

Hoping to buy 60 new tankers by 2020, the Air Force estimates that this program will cost some $15 billion.

"The problem now is we’ve got three massive programs that are overlapping almost perfectly in time. This is really the perfect storm for aircraft modernization," Harrison said. "I think we’re going to see a prolonged battle among these programs and these companies. It’s gonna get nasty."

Related:
Pentagon Plans to Improve F-35’s Capabilities With Refueling Drones
American F-35 Loses to Russian Su-35 in 'Tactical Capabilities'
Haste Makes Waste? US to Build 500 More Unproven F-35 Jets
Tags:
Long Range Strike-Bomber, F-35 II Joint Strike Fighter Program, US Air Force, Pentagon, Todd Harrison, Robert Work, Ashton Carter, United States
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  • AnomicDust
    Program pogrom inside the pentagon.
  • FlorianGeyer
    "It demonstrates our commitment to our allies,"


    mmmm , Only if the allies are the US Military Industrial Complex.
  • tina.lapaglia
    'making it crystal clear that the United States will continue to retain the ability to project power throughout the globe long into the future," Defense Secretary Ashton Carter "
    Every country should be placing sanctions on US, completely isolate them. At least more and more countries are doing business in their own currency, until the US collapses monetarily it will continue with it's aim of total dominance with no concern for the destruction around the world it causes. No to perpetual war we want peace!
  • Now we've come to understand why the United States is involved in so much endless wars,one after the other.Always there's a new enemy to be fought and spent money on,which is the main reason.Almost all other countries live in peace with each other.The United States is always at war,spending billions on military.This year 2016,Russia is the new number 1 enemy.And with comes the prospect of WW3 which to them it all sounds too good for the military Industrial Complex.Billions more will be asked from their government to fight this new boogey enemy number one.To design,upgrade,built and waste more money on military tools for wars might finally bring down this country.
  • STOP killary !!
    these rednecks and hillybillys have run amok, all due to the unlimited $ printing press, which must be destroyed first.
  • wendigo
    The return of the cold war is indeed good news for the western defense industries. Lots of pork spending coming in towns around the US, some in other NATO countries, but all good news for the politicians as well. So print more money already, who cares about the debt, they can't count it anymore anyway.

    I like the Bulgarian pm's term, 'cold peace.' That sounds more oily and devious, more appropriate to this new cold war taking shape. Coincidently, the first one started with China and Russia as allies too...
  • coolerheads
    There are really four air programs the Pentagon wants to fund:

    F-35 Stealth Strike Fighter
    B-3 Long Range Stealth Bomber
    KC-46 Low Observable Refueling Tanker
    F-XX Stealth Air Superiority Fighter

    If the Pentagon gets its way, the federal coffers will be opened and all four programs will be fully funded. As a percentage of GDP, U.S. defense spending is the smallest it's been since before WWII. The political headwinds in the U.S. seem to be shifting back to a cold-war mentality of massive investment in new weapons systems.
  • The F-35 is the most shi**y "combat" airplane ever builded.
    I call it a "picnic plane" :)
  • STECHA
    God bless American military ingenuity. Jesus H F-ing __rist who the _uck is leading this country.
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