We’re gonna be hammering on what a mess procurement is for a while. Here’s an interesting look at the F-35 program that isn’t nearly as pessimistic as Eric L. Palmer’s usual take on the subject.
Here’s a taste of Prof. Thompson’s view:
The biggest reason, a reason few outsiders seem to grasp, is bureaucratic politics in the Pentagon. You see, there are these factions that benefit from generating cost estimates, conducting tests and doing other things associated with new weapons programs, and said factions tend to make the usual problems any development program encounters either look worse or actually be worse. Take the cost estimates. Prime contractor Lockheed Martin has recently signed the fourth consecutive production contract with the defense department in which the actual cost of building the F-35 came in well below the cost projected by Pentagon estimators. About 25 percent below, in the latest contract. Yet cost estimators continue to apply pessimistic assumptions to projecting future costs, based on historical data from other, older fighter programs. So they come up with wildly wrong cost estimates that the contractor beats every time. It has to beat them, because nobody is going to buy a single-engine fighter for much more than what the latest F-16 sells for today, so that’s how Lockheed needs to price the new plane.
I’m not at all sure how much faith to put in this article. I’m not nearly as antagonistic to the F-35 as Palmer is, but I have to wonder how much of this is more “wishcasting” than forecasting by Prof. Thompson.
If you think of the F-35 as the follow on to the F-22, you’re wrong. And Palmer would argue that if you think of it as the successor to the F-16, you’ll come away disappointed. Me? I think it is likely to be a pretty good successor to the F-16 in the strike role. Or at least, the Air Force “A” model, and the Navy “C” model have potential. I still can’t believe the Marines need a supersonic $150 million dollar close air support platform.
Meh. This is all just an excuse to show this video of the first F-35C arriving at Pax River.