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  • JSF Proponents Say The Darndest Things, Part 2
    Posted by Bill Sweetman 3:46 PM on Feb 02, 2012

    Joint Strike Fighter supporters are far from gruntled about the Pentagon's plan to cut production in the FY2013-17 buy years, reportedly to no more than 29 aircraft in 2013 and 2014.

    Second Line of Defense's Robbin Laird goes all Teddy Roosevelt on the rear ends of the supposed "naysayers". Mackenzie Eaglen, recently moved from the Heritage Foundation to the American Enterprise Institute, bewails cuts to "by far the most important program to the health of the American defense industrial base and many small businesses around the country". And Loren Thompson asks: "Who would have believed it was possible to develop the nation's most important new weapons program this slowly?"

    The quick answer to Thompson's question: Apparently Lockheed Martin and the program office did not, when they signed up in 2001 to do the job in ten and a half years.

    None of the three commenters addresses the reason for the cutbacks, which is that top Pentagon engineers and the service customers have reviewed the program and concluded that the design is not ready for high-rate production.

    Thompson dismisses such concerns, without bothering to mention the crucial Quick Look Review report. (Indeed, if you rely on Thompson's blog for information about the F-35, you wouldn't know that the QLR existed.) Thompson comments:

    While I certainly wouldn't want to deny personnel in the Pentagon's overgrown testing bureaucracy the opportunity to close out their home mortgages and get that last kid through college, this administration always seems to have yet another reason why it can't stick to the F-35 business plan that was conceived a decade ago to hold down program costs.

    The problem with this statement is not simply that it is insulting, nor that the Pentagon's testing bureaucracy is overgrown, but that no such bureaucracy exists.

    The only Pentagon-wide office responsible for testing is that of the Director of Operational Test and Evaluation. DOT&E advises the Office of the Secretary of Defense and reports to Congress, but has no authority over anything. Test and evaluation organizations mostly report to the individual service departments.

    The office was established by Congress in 1984 after a series of embarrassing developmental problems (notably the Army's Sergeant York air defense gun) revealed a tendency for services and contractors to repeat tests and tweak parameters before declaring success.

    The QLR itself was produced by a team headed by Pentagon engineering leaders, only one of whom has "test and evaluation" in his title. And the JSF test organization reports to the JSF project office rather than to any one service, making it even more removed from the Pentagon's mythical barons of T&E.

    Meanwhile, Laird's curious screed seems to blame the problems of the F-35 on "Internet naysayers" (may I observe that the opposite of a naysayer is a yes-man?) as if decision makers obediently do whatever I or Air Power Australia tell them. He longs for a golden age in the 1950s when "tests constantly failed, pilots died and companies failed in the quest for greatness."

    Yes, that was a different era in many ways, and full of grand experimentation. But the winners of those days (like the U-2 and B-52) were developed in years, not decades, and the titanic flops, such as airborne nuclear power or the amazing Navaho, were dragged behind the barn and shot without mercy when shown to be unnecessary or impractical, or both.

    The quest for an all-stealth combat air force has lasted more than a quarter of a century and yielded 160 combat-capable aircraft and at least three major failed programs. Even if JSF goes perfectly from now on (we'll see about that) we won't be close to the goal of that quest for another ten years. 

    And as for TR's "man in the arena" quote from his Sorbonne speech, might I add what he said a few moments later:
    The power of the journalist is great, but he is entitled neither to respect nor admiration because of that power unless it is used aright .... All journalists, all writers, for the very reason that they appreciate the vast possibilities of their profession, should bear testimony against those who deeply discredit it.

    Tags: ar99, tacair, JSF

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