An interesting take on procurement blues

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.


Your thoughts?

5 thoughts on “An interesting take on procurement blues”

  1. And what about the Rhino? It comes in single and two seat versions and is a capable aircraft. It has been proven.
    Says something coming from an old Intruder wrench turner!

  2. I don’t have good feelings about the F-35. It smacks too much of the mindset of the old Century series. Perhaps a good strike AC, but why spend that much money when the A-19 is around and is probably a better CAS AC than the JSF will be? Really doesn’t make much sense frankly.
    In my opinion, AC acquisition is far too political and filling rice bowls is more important than what the services really need. There are things that can be done to keep aerospace contractors busy without spending this kind of money.

  3. Very impressive video quality of an airplane that, at best, vaguely reminds me of an F7U Cutlass. In short, ugly. Not qualifed to talk on more than aesthetics in this case.

  4. 1) There are problems with development yes, but the major problem is cutting metal and getting all the parts and variants working.

    2) the F-16 is done. Deader than Elvis. ELP bitterly clings to the F-16 (which had it’s detractors when it 1st came on line) becuase he loves the F-22 (killed by POGO and other “experts”).

    3) Mostly attack pilots think jet=sexy, prop=dead career. And most marine air comes off of amphibs. So they need VTOL. The Marines and Navy need to agree that Marines on a CVN belong 1st to the marines. The Marnies need to get a slow tough A-10 like jet or (gasp!) turboprop to do ground attack. Let the Navy be air supremacy.

  5. Attack Pilots should see anything that works well as a boon, not a dead end.

    I don’t agree on the F-16. I’m not averse to anything that proves to be superior, but the JSF doesn’t have anything to show that yet. I have my doubts it will be able to defend itself like the F-16 can. OTOH, the strike AC should not have to defend themselves. If we had a good organization, a Strategic AF would take care of theater air superiority and the Army and Marines could concentrate on those things they are supposed to concentrate on. The Navy could handle some air superiority roles, but not against a serious land based AF that could put 3 to 4 times more fighter AC over the battlefield. In a WW2 style maritime conflict, as the Pacific war was, the navy could do so when we had the numbers of Essex Class Carriers we had at the end, they could do it. With the kind of AF China is trying to build, I don’t think so.

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