|Is the F-35 program a house of cards?|
Part of the F-35's original appeal was its promise of "affordability". Since so many planes were being built, economies of scale should bring an otherwise pricey aircraft down to F-16 like price levels. Yeah... No so much. It turns out developing an all new, do-everything, bleeding edge aircraft is more difficult (and expensive) than was first thought. Now, years overdue and billions over budget, "partner nations" are starting to have second thoughts.
After cutting our initial order of 80 down to 65, Canada is now "hitting the reset button" on the purchase. Australia, desperate to fill the gap left after it retired its F-111s, purchased 24 Super Hornets as an "interim fighter" while it waited for F-35 production to ramp up. With a grand total of 2 F-35s now promised for Australia by the year 2020, the RAAF is now considering buying another 24 Super Hornets while cutting the F-35 down by that same number in a "one-for-one" basis.
Most recently, Turkey now considering postponing its initial order. Citing "rising costs and technological failures". Turkey has been at times one of the program's biggest supporter's and yet harshest critic. American refusal to share its software code didn't exactly go over well, and Turkey is now on the fence the F-35, possibly ordering around 100, but now even the initial 2 seem in doubt.
Of the original 9 partner countries, all have reduced and/or delayed their orders.
- U.K: 138 F-35Bs, down to 48 with a final figure determined later.
- Italy: 131 reduced to 90.
- Netherlands: 85 reduced to "one for one" replacement of their existing 68 F-16s.
- Australia: 100, reduced to 75, will likely be reduced further if the plan to buy more Super Hornets goes through.
- Canada: 80 initially, reduced to 65 due to cost and now "reset" altogether.
- Denmark: Possible order for 48, but still considering the Gripen and Super Hornet instead.
- Norway: A fairly firm order for 52 F-35s, but Norway has a vested interest, providing the F-35s with the Joint Strike Missile.
With a total of 2,443 aircraft planned, and about 100 already built or in production, the U.S. is by far the driving force behind the F-35. But even the U.S. isn't so keen on the F-35 anymore, and the upcoming sequestration will undoubtedly cut production and development of American F-35s drastically. This will lead to further delays in procurement and even higher costs, resulting in more countries reducing or delaying their orders, if not backing out entirely.
|Will the F-35 be a target for upcoming U.S. budget cuts?|