How many times have we here at WOOF gone on record over recent months telling you that the F-22 Raptor’s cancellation was an act of idiocy, or worse, treachery at the highest levels? Well, we don’t know the exact number either, but a bunch, anyhow. And what else have we been telling you, Woofketeers? That the vaunted F-35 with which the Obama Administration told us they would replace the F-22 was destined for disaster in terms of cost overruns combined with embarrassing under-performance issues! And believe us, nothing underperforms like a “multi-purpose” fighter, as Robert Strange McNamara proved when he single-handedly imposed the idea of the F-111 on each branch of the armed services back in the ‘60s. Since early studies suggested to him that several services were looking for somewhat similar characteristics in a new aircraft, McNamara had one of his always-lamentable brainstorms and directed the services to study the development of a single aircraft that would satisfy all requirements. (He also thought every service should wear the same uniform, thus saving defense dollars!) Thus convicted, Secretary McNamara ordered the development of the Tactical Fighter Experimental test aircraft (TFX) despite strong objections from the Air Force and the Navy, both of which begged to be permitted to develop aircraft suitable to their individual services, but no—McNamara and his famous whiz kids knew best. The result was an airplane that nobody really wanted, which did a number of jobs for a number of services, but did none of them particularly well, and cost more to replace than had it never been proposed in the first place. Secretary of Defense McNamara, who gave us the Edsel, the Bay of Pigs, and the concept of attrition in Vietnam, had done it again!
The Obama administration might have learned a profound lesson from this debacle, if anyone in the Obama administration could tell a Piper Cub from a 747, or if anybody really cared to learn, but Vladimir Putin has assigned our President the task of disarming the American Republic (now that he has “more flexibility”), and the opportunity to spend massive amounts of non-existent revenue producing a miserably unsatisfactory aircraft is a twofer so far as Our Beloved Leader is concerned. There was a time, of course, when the Pentagon would at least kick against these encroachments on American security– a time when a few Generals and Admirals would have risked their careers to cry foul as this albatross was hung around Uncle Sam’s neck—but those days are behind us now. Today we have a Pentagon stuffed to the rafters (if the Pentagon has rafters) with yes men, sycophants, and political hacks who earned their rank by osculating the posteriors of liberal politicos and Presidents, and by honing the American military into the politically correct, multiculturally sensitive, sexually diversified organization it is today. These Metrosexual brass hats are the ones who pioneered such concepts as women and overt Gays in combat, and obediently labeled the jihadist rampage of Major Nidal Malik Hasan “workplace violence,” the Major having celebrated multicultural diversity by shooting 14 Americans to death at Fort Hood while yelling “God is great!” in Arabic.
This “new breed” of sociopolitically-sensitive American military planners has no qualms about running interference for a substandard flying machine if it scores brownie points with the current President and his coterie of Chicago mobsters and Marxists. Add to this the complicity of cooperative RINOs like John McCain in the senate. That’s right, McCain unhelpfully spearheaded the drive to scrap the vital F-22 Raptor in 2009, convincing then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and, by the process of corrosive diffusion, Barack Hussein Obama, that the Raptor was unnecessary because it was intended to cleanse the skies of next-generation enemy fighters—an adversarial force that Senator McCain assured the new Administration simply didn’t exist. Of course, McCain’s rationale omitted the relatively abstract possibility that such an enemy force might shortly exist in the arsenals of Russia and China—it just didn’t seem to occur to him. And now, of course, both communist countries have had enough American technology leaked to them by the spies Eric Holder and Obama prefer to ignore in our aerospace programs that their own Raptor-style aircraft are rolling off the assembly lines. How good these planes may be is problematic, but that some super fighters can easily beat no super fighters is fairly obvious—possibly, by now, even to Senator McCain.
Meanwhile, absent the Raptor, which cost 97 billion to date, the development of the “Lightning” staggers forward at a current cost upwards of one trillion dollars, much of which is being spent, even as we post this screed, on adding more and more weight to the aircraft’s design while simultaneously cutting down its maneuverability. Why? Because after all the compromises forced upon designers at Lockheed Martin (to enable the plane to serve its various masters in the Marines, Air Force and Navy), have been factored into the aircraft’s performance package, there just isn’t a lot of true blue performance left. Once upon a time, somebody like Curt Lemay or John Boyd would have spoken up and said “to blazes with this lemon!” But nowadays? Nowadays the Pentagon rewrites its own criteria for the F-35, dumbing them down so that their prize super-jet can eke out a passing grade.
That’s what we said, Woofketeers, the Defense Department’s annual reports on weapons tests reveal changes to the official expectations of the F-35 “Lightning.” The military has clearly lowered the bar for their only remaining fighter-aircraft project, replacing all those criteria that the plane failed to meet with new sets of criteria adjusted to reflect the aircraft’s actual, and substantially less impressive, performance. Think of it as “No Jet Left Behind,” and the F-35 was “taught the test,” as it were. For example, the plane’s turn performance, once slated to achieve 5.3 “g’s” is now reduced to 4.6 while time for acceleration from Mach 0.8 to Mach1.2 has been lengthened by eight seconds. That may not seem like much of a difference, but in a dogfight it can mean an eternity. We could go on enumerating these instances of lowered expectations, but you’d get pretty bored, so suffice it that an eagle is sorely needed to maintain American air supremacy, and a turkey is in the works.
WOOF is well aware that sniping at defense projects is a favorite game of the liberal left, as personified most egregiously by Wisconsin Senator William Proxmire who once insisted to a devoutly anti-military media that Grumman’s F-14 Tomcat was a total boondoggle unworthy of further development. The execrable scribbler “Herblock,” long everybody’s choice for most didactically unfunny political cartoonist in the history of that art, obligingly produced a Washington Post cartoon featuring a squadron of Tomcats flying along in formation with big lemons painted on their fuselages. Get it?
Well of course you do, its Herblock! You may never laugh when you read a Herblock cartoon, but you’ll always get it—like you get it when some weenie blows a raspberry at you: as unsubtle as it is uninspired, right? Well, Herblock, before departing this life in 2001, won every award you can possibly imagine including three Pulitzers, just for being dogmatically, woodenly, left wing over the entire course of his bluntly dogmatic career—and yes, Clinton gave him the medal of freedom. We wanted to show you his F-14 cartoon, but it isn’t on line—possibly because it perfectly melds his utter lack of insight with his utter lack of wit…but we digress.
The Tomcat, of course, went on to rule the skies for two decades and starred in its own Tom Cruise movie, Top Gun, while Proxmire got caught fleecing the taxpayer for his own hair transplants and eventually shuffled off to a nursing home—sorry evidence that Wisconsin hasn’t fielded an authentic senatorial guardian of the commonweal since 1957. Certainly WOOF has no wish to wax unduly critical of a developing weapons system in the fashion of Proxmire or Herblock, (shudder!), but where the F-35 is concerned, the case is plain. We are spending a fortune to produce an airplane that, in a dogfight with its perkier but short-lived predecessor, would be shot down in flames—and that is, metaphorically speaking, precisely the fate that should be visited upon the current avatar of this under-performing sky cow. But, you ask, how can we be certain that this critique is not an unwitting simulacrum of the Left’s infamous attack on the now-legendary F-14 Tomcat?
It is certainly true, gentle readers, that all new weapons systems go through developmental setbacks—weaponological growing pains, if you will–no matter how advantageous to American interests the final product may be, and the Tomcat is a classic case in point. But the F-35 “Lightning” is more properly compared to the aforementioned F-111 Aardvark (the cognomen refers to the plane’s long nose) except that it appears to compare, even in this regard, unfavorably. After all, while the F-111, nicknamed the “F-one a lemon,” failed dismally to perform as a true fighter jet, and flopped as a Navy plane for all the reasons the Navy strove to make manifest to McNamara aforehand, it did in fact pioneer swept-wing technology and found a niche, if briefly, as a reliable low-level penetration bomber. For proof, you could ask Qaddafi whom it pounded into numbed neutrality during the Reagan administration, except that despite his continuing neutrality, you may recall, Hillary (respectfully known as Her Magnificence in these cyberspacial environs), orchestrated his removal and torture killing in order to replace him with the jihadist extremists who proceeded to murder her friend, the American Ambassador—but we digress. At any rate, the Aardvark has many fans despite its failure to perform the majority of the roles for which it was intended, and it is difficult to imagine the F-35 performing as ably in any regard.
In fairness, the gob on the job with the F-35 Lightning program is Vice Admiral David Venlet, and it will come as no surprise to you, we wager, that Admiral Venlet thinks the F-35 rocks and rolls. Venlet testified only a month ago that he can patch up all the leaks in the Lightning project if only Congress will relax and allow him the time, the flexibility, and, of course, the money. Venlet warned that delay, program restructuring, or the imposition of timetables or criteria-based funding allowances would simply play hob with his process and sabotage the Lightning’s impending makeover. Venlet spoke truly when he declared that there are always “normal teething problems that you always find in fighter aircraft development that simply require good old-fashioned systems engineering, to fix problems as we find them.” Admiral Venlet forgot to add, however, that sometimes, as in the case of the Convair F2Y Sea Dart, the McDonnell Douglas/General Dynamics A-12 “Avenger,” and the underpowered, carrier-aversive, Vought F7U “Cutlass,” the “teething problems” turn out to be terminal.
So can the “Lightning” be saved from insanely-overpriced mediocrity, Admiral? Well, WOOF certainly hopes so—nobody would be more pleased than us to see the “Lightning” live up to its moniker—but there’s an awful lot that needs fixing here! Many of the worst obstacles to progress are the aircraft’s software which is so advanced technically that it simply doesn’t work. One case in point is the famous magic helmet that was intended to offer the pilot a live video feed and real-time sensor information, even, perhaps, to permit aiming and deployment of weapons in a manner reminiscent of Clint Eastwood’s psychic helmet in the movie “Firefox,” but the project engineers don’t have the bugs ironed out and Venlet said he has substituted a set of more reliable goggles as a stopgap measure. Oh come off it! Can you imagine Clint Eastwood wearing goggles? Or SteveCanyon, or Chuck Yeager? Nah, it won’t do, Admiral—we need a working helmet.
The F-35 has also initiated its own Tail-hook Scandal—which is simply to say that its tail hook—the device that snags the arresting wire when landing on an aircraft carrier—doesn’t snag the wires. Now there’s a problem. Other problems include fuel venting (it either doesn’t or it does when it shouldn’t) and propulsion reliability, which is kind of self explanatory, right? Add to this concern the fact that much of the plane’s viability is based on its stealth component, and that the addition of stealth technology has a natural tendency to diminish other performance capabilities. One trades, in effect, agility for invisibility. But top scientists all over the unfree world are hard at work on technologies that defeat our stealth packages, and once they succeed, we will no longer enjoy the invisibility factor, though we will certainly retain the agility deficit! Dohhhh!
Still, Admiral Venlet is adamant that this will all be okay if we only believe. In their financial assessment of the entire imbroglio, Credit Suisse opined that “DoD is clearly concerned that another major performance gaffe could cause Congress to truncate the F-35 program in favor of ‘alternatives.’” Well, WOOF says, bring on the alternatives—
And we suggest the F-22 Raptor be produced by the hundredfold. Outrageously expensive? Zillions for defense, say we, so long as it defends effectively—and the Raptor could be financed by a small portion of what it costs to keep ourselves up to our ears in exploding electric automobiles, tofu-powered windmill farms, biodegradable solar panel units and other impracticable fantasies churned out en mass by “green industry” entrepreneurs who always receive zillions in stimulus funding before declaring bankruptcy!
So let’s cancel the F-35 before Our Beloved Leader finds a way to channel some of those hold-out stimulus billions its way and we wind up stuck with a fleet of winged white elephants! Although on second thought, hey– back when Harley Earl worked for General Motors, back in the days when Detroit made automobiles, remember?—he created a design revolution by producing cars that looked like fighter jets—setting off the whole tail-fin craze. Harley has left the building, sadly, but maybe Chevrolet could design a jet for the Navy? A jet that does for Naval Aviation what the Corvette did for the American auto industry? Oh—wait—that’s right. The Great Helmsman took over GM in 2009 to save it from the evil stockholders and placed it securely in the capable hands of the UAW so that they could scrap the fusion car and go straight to work mass producing the Volt. So– who needs an electric fighter plane, right? Sorry! Our bad!