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WASHINGTON – The Department of Defense has signaled that it wants the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy to begin working on the next generation aircraft even though these services are having a hard time obtaining the fifth-generation stealth F-35 due to serious cost overruns and production delays, according to a report from Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.
The timing also is questionable in view of impending cuts in defense spending and the across-the-board sequestration budget cuts that could cost DOD almost a trillion dollars over the next decade.
In an Oct. 10, 2012, letter to the secretaries of the Air Force and Navy, Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Frank Kendall bypassed concerns about the F-35 deployments and said that “it is not too early to begin consideration of the next generation of capability” that is to complement and eventually replace the F-35.
In the face of these drastic cuts, Kendall implied that the purpose of initiating this effort is to keep defense contractors working.
“I am concerned that our ability to design cutting edge platforms of this type is already atrophying,” Kendal said. “In addition, the potential for viable future competition in this area will shrink or be eliminated if the Department (of Defense) does not take action soon.
“Our design teams for high performance air vehicles are an important national resource,” he said. “They will not be preserved, and our technological advantage in this area will not endure, unless we provide a meaningful opportunity for leading-edge design, build, and test activities.”
Kendall wants the Air Force and Navy to work with DOD’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, which is to initiate research to explore what may be new concepts for the next generation aircraft, or “air dominance.”
To keep military aircraft producers working, Kendall wants DARPA to explore the roles of manned and unmanned aircraft, the “relative performance of alternative integrated system or systems concepts that combine various mixes of capabilities networked together” – whatever that means – and the cost effectiveness of alternative “balances of platforms and systems that provide surveillance, command and control, electronic warfare and weapons functions.
“Innovative platform concepts for airframe, propulsion, sensors, weapons integration, avionics, an active and passive survivability features will be explored as a central part of the concept definition effort,” Kendall said.
The F-35 for the past decade has been the only high performance aircraft in development in the U.S.
While Kendall wants DARPA, the Air Force and Navy to explore future generations of military fighter jets, the reality is that the current F-35 program has experienced serious cost overruns and has had production and delivery delays. Currently, the Air Force and Navy are unable to acquire the needed F-35s for their operational use, even though it is to “provide a decisive advantage in the air for the next few decades,” Kendall said.
In addition, some 11 foreign countries have heavily invested in the F-35 to be their standard jet fighter and in the process have cut back on their own jet fighter production industry. Now, America’s allies will have to rely on their aging F-15s, F-16s and F-18s for the unforeseen future.
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