The Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the Pentagon's newest and most expensive warplane ever, has become a great disappointment for the United States Air Force and sparked fierce criticism from Western experts and lawmakers.
"[H]ad the Pentagon foregone developing an entirely new fighter jet, the $100 billion it has spent to date on the F-35 project would have bought about 740 Eurofighter Typhoons. Euro-anything, of course, is hardly the USAF's style, and the War Department hasn't bought a French fighter since 1918," US expert James Hasík, a senior fellow at the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security, noted.
Indeed, besides the US Air Force, the Navy and Marines were hoping that the new fighter jet would provide them with new unbeatable advantage in the skies. It has turned out however that although the project was $165 billion over budget, the plane has not performed as it was widely advertised.
The main complaint is that the F-35 is less maneuverable than the F-22. In July, 2015 Australian Federal Parliament member Dr. Dennis Jensen emphasized in his Op-Ed "Time to Remember the Vietnam Air War Lesson" that the plane's manufacturer had obviously forgotten the bitter lessons of the Vietnam War.
Referring to the US military doctrine of the 1950s, Jensen noted that it claimed the era of "dogfighting" was over. As a result, America's F-4 Phantom planes had advanced air search and targeting radars, eight air-to-air missiles, and other sophisticated equipment. However, since the days of "dogfighting" were purportedly over, the F-4 Phantom was designed without a gun, Jensen pointed out.
"Then came the moment of truth. The might of the United States, with the highly sophisticated F-4 Phantom, was supposed to easily destroy opposing enemy fighters like the MiG-17. The obsolescent MiG-17 had no air combat radar or long-range missiles, but the aircraft had guns. In combat, the missiles did not work as advertised, and the agile MiG-17 caused the F-4 all sorts of problem," the Australian MP underscored.
"[I]t is clear the JSF will be dead meat if it ever comes to close range combat with decades-old fighters," Jensen pointed out.
Interestingly enough, in an interview with RT, famed US aerospace engineer Pierre Sprey, the co-designer of the F-16 Falcon jet and the A-10 Warthog tank buster, remarked that the infamous F-35 "would be ripped to shreds even by the antiquated MiG-21," let alone a dogfight with Russia's fourth-generation Su-27 and MiG-29 jets.
What makes matters even worse is that many experts consider the project an outrageous waste of money.
The RAND Corporation, a nonprofit research and analysis institution, stated that although the Pentagon has pursued numerous joint aircraft programs, including the recent F-35 Joint Strike Fighter project in order to reduce Life Cycle Cost (LCC), it has obviously failed to accomplish this mission. Moreover, the programs lead to even higher overall costs.
"Unless the participating services have identical, stable requirements, the US Department of Defense should avoid future joint fighter and other complex joint aircraft development programs," RAND's analysts recommended, bemoaning the fact that the presence of fewer prime contractors in the US market undermines the potential for future competition and "makes costs more difficult to control."