16:39 GMT24 November 2020
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    Having understood that the overpriced F-35 is essentially a disaster, the Pentagon decided to go shopping for a "big, expensive, high-tech" new strategic bomber to replace its aging fleet of B-52s and B-1s, defense expert David Axe reported.

    The war machine will be developed under the Long Range Strike Bomber program by either Northrop Grumman or a joint venture of Boeing and Lockheed Martin. The winner, expected to be announced this fall, will build as many as 100 new aircraft at a total price tag of $55 billion.

    According to Axe, "that's a huge deal for the US military as it tries to compensate for [the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program] that has gone outrageously off the rails."

    The Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II, the outcome of the JSF program, is "arguably too slow, too sluggish and too lightly armed to defeat the latest Russian- and Chinese-made fighters. … The F-35 is also prone to breakdowns, engine fires and software failures. It's years late and – at a total cost of more than $400 billion – way, way over budget," the analyst pointed out.

    The F-35, which is still in its initial production and testing stage, was designed to replace an array of other US planes, including the F-16 and the A-10, but it cannot substitute a bomber. The stealth fighter has a range of 600 miles, while the US Air Force needs a plane that will have a range of 2,500 miles.

    No amount of upgrades, refueling or strategic positioning can turn an F-35 into a long-range strategic bomber, especially considering that Russia and China have enough capabilities to destroy US aerial tankers.

    Not much has been made public with regard to the next-generation bomber. The warplane is expected to be capable of carrying tons of weapons and to have supreme stealth capabilities. According to some reports, it could even be operated as a drone for some missions.

    Nevertheless, the Pentagon is already spending a lot of money on the new design and the funding will likely go through the roof. The development expenditure for the new bomber will increase from $1 billion in 2015 to more than $3 billion in 2018, and this trend will only be reinforced in the years to come, Axe observed.

    The Pentagon wants the first batch of new bombers to enter service in less than a decade. By that time the US will have "a huge number of F-35s plus a smaller force of old bombers that officials worry can't survive in a full-fledged war with Russia, China or another determined foe," the analyst noted.

    This tight schedule could require more funds and to get them the Pentagon could very well cut additional funding for F-35s.

    • A F-35 Lightning II Landing on HMS Queen Elizabeth
      A F-35 Lightning II Landing on HMS Queen Elizabeth
      UK Ministry of Defence
    • F-35 aerial refuel
      F-35 aerial refuel
      © Flickr / US Air Force
    • F-35 100th flight
      F-35 100th flight
      © Flickr / Samuel King Jr
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    UK Ministry of Defence
    A F-35 Lightning II Landing on HMS Queen Elizabeth


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    B-3, military aircraft, strategic bomber, long range strike bomber, F-35 II Joint Strike Fighter Program, technology, Lockheed Martin F-35C Joint Strike Fighter, Northrop Grumman, Pentagon, Boeing, US
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