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No, the F-35 will NOT be a "smashing success" - Answer to Loren Thomson, Forbes

Recently, Loren Thomson signed an article in which he said that the Joint Strike Fighter project will become a "smashing success". While he also said that he has an "emotional attachment to the F-35" because he worked with many of the companies that build it, it doesn't mean that his opinion about it is as independant as it may seems.

I will answer to each and every argument.

1. Flight tests are over two-thirds complete with no show-stoppers.

That is true, entirely true. But first, finishing flight tests does not make any aicraft a smashing success. It's mandatory for any aircraft to go through every tests ... and for that, the F-35 won't be a smashing success. In fact, many expectations have been greatly downgraded or even cancelled.

2. Risks associated with a revolutionary design are being steadily retired.

Again, nope. DO&E reports shows that some of these risks won't ever be retired or repaired. Plus, as Thomson says "the Marine version was strengthened", not only this version in fact, but every versions were strengthened and therefore weighed down.

3. The Marines will declare initial operational capability this summer.

Yes, and ? Is that, by any mean, a proof ? No it's not. Even more considering that for the first time, the JSF program will be in agreement with the calendar.

4. Sea trials were the most successful ever.

Thanks to its very big wings, thus creating the necessary requirements for a plane to be very slow and very stable, this plane is a very good plane when it comes to landing on an aircraft carrier. As good as a Goshawk (the USMC/US Navy training aircraft) is ... but is the F-35 as successful as the F-18 or the Harrier for air-to-surface missions ?

5. Over 145 F-35 have been built and delivered.

Yes, and 2508 F-104 "Widowmaker" were built.

6. Estimates of life-cycle costs are falling fast.

Yes, and the cost for F-35 will be 1 billion dollars for 56 years. And according to the GAO, it's a little bit underestimated. For now, it will only cost 2457+ billion dollars to the United States DoD ...

7. Numerous allies have joined the F-35 program.

And some of them regrets it, many are just cancelling many of their orders, for example, Italy will only get 45 of their 90 units. Will it be enough to run both the Air Force & Navy ? Speaking of the Italian Navy, they will only get 15 F-35, not even a full aircraft carrier deployment.

8. Nearly 200 pilots and 2000 maintainers have been trained.

See answer to 5.

9. There is better understanding of fifth-generation fighters.

Fifth generation fighters is a doctrine only used by US Forces. Therefore saying that 5th gen fighters are unique is biased. The so-called fifth generation is a vision in which every aircraft are complementary. The F-35 alone, as it will be in many air forces around the world, is just a 4++ Gen fighter. Now ... how does it makes it a smashing success ? We don't know. But Thomson signed another article in which he declared that US ennemies were lining up to steal or counter US technologies.

10. The political systems has closed ranks behind the program.

Two options : either it will be a "smashing-on-the-ground success" or a very normal plane with terrible performances for its cost. A plane as good as a F-16 ? Never.



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