Recall when earlier this year the US military declared the F-35 operational and deployed a squadron to Estonia to prove it? It turns out what everybody suspected at the time was true. That was just a show, a Potemkin-squadron.
In reality these aircraft are not operation-ready. What is more, the Pentagon now says they possibly never will be.
The Pentagon has said to be considered “fully combat-capable” the first 108 F-35 fighters built for the Air Force would require an additional 150-160 modifications including complicated software upgrades, fixes to the landing gear, ejection seats, and the fuselage.
The required upgrades would in fact be so difficult and expensive to implement that Pentagon’s F-35 program chief, vice admiral Mat Winter, now says the military is considering quitting on the first batch of fighters altogether and simply never ordering the upgrades.
Albeit left unstated an additional 81 F-35s purchased in the same timeframe by the US Navy and Marine Corps are facing the same prospect — even though Pentagon readily admits without the upgrades the planes simply won’t be “fully combat-capable”:
The Pentagon’s testing office has repeatedly said that any pilots flying Block 2B F-35s who find themselves in a combat situation would “need to avoid threat engagement and would require augmentation by other friendly forces.”
In other words, the 108 Air Force F-35s in question, or any of the Block 2B aircraft, would need to run away from a fight and have other aircraft come to their rescue.
The 108 fighters purchased by the Air Force cost it $21 billion (more than one third of Russia’s entire annual defense budget), and that’s just the production cost of the machines. Combined with the Navy and Marine planes that’s potentially $40 billion down the drain (the Navy and Marine variants are even costlier).
Truthfully the aircraft won’t be entirely useless, they could still be used for training purposes, but at $200 million per machine that’s one hell of an expensive training aircraft.
The F-35 was billed as a wonder weapon but so far the only thing it excels at is funneling Americans’ tax money to Lockheed-Martin.