Home / Robert Farley / Will Sell Fighters for Food

Will Sell Fighters for Food


In this week’s WPR column, I shill for Lockheed Martin:

Given Congress’ unwillingness to pursue additional revenue, the current Defense Department budget cannot be sustained. Cuts will be necessary, but the F-35B is the wrong place to look. The F-35B provides a virtually unique capability for transforming amphibious assault ships into light strike/air superiority aircraft carriers. In export and international production, the F-35B can similarly transform warships such as the Japanese Hyuga-class Helicopter-Carrying Destroyer into light carriers capable of strike and air superiority missions. The F-35B is a force multiplier in the literal sense: It turns amphibious warships with limited strike capabilities into aircraft carriers roughly as capable as their most formidable foreign counterparts.

Now, why I am fielding arguments about fighter acquisition that make a Heritage Foundation intern blush? First, I really would like a job as a Lockheed Martin PR flack, or a Fox News “Democrat.” I think I could make that work. More importantly, however, I think that arguments about cutting the defense budget should be as detailed as possible, and should differentiate between systems that are militarily useful and systems that can be sacrificed. To my mind, the F-35B is one of the former; it is an aircraft that is very expensive in and of itself, but that is flexible enough in mission performance to make cuts in other areas possible. Specifically, the F-35B significantly enhances the capabilities of warships that we and our allies already have, and also of relatively modest future projects.

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  • Marek

    So does that mean it is in the former category, not the latter?

    • NBarnes

      should differentiate between systems that are militarily useful and systems that can be sacrificed.


      the F-35B is one of the latter

      I agree with Marek; I think you lost your GPS between the former and the latter.

      • Robert Farley

        Cheerfully corrected!

  • NBarnes

    Also, I think your points about the F-35B are well within what is truly ‘serious’ in defense budget debates and deserve full consideration.

    Personally, I think one of the most obvious points of distinction in the DoD budget is between the F-22 and F-35. The former is obviously expendable (and should, in fact, be expended), the latter is likely necessary and should be retained.

    • NBarnes

      Of course, I wisely wrote that before reading the article.

      Are there really people arguing that the F-35B has had too many technical problems and therefore the USMC should abandon it in favor of… the F-22? Really? Really?

      Also, somebody, please, tell them to stop reusing fighter names. It was unnecessary when we did it with the A-10 (which, let’s face it, is the Warthog. Who in Goddess’ name calls it the Thunderbolt II?), but with the F-35 ‘Lightning II’, it’s just pathetic. Given how we all mock Hollywood for just doing remakes, can’t we expect better from the US Armed Forces?

      • Murc

        Are there really people arguing that the F-35B has had too many technical problems and therefore the USMC should abandon it in favor of… the F-22? Really? Really?

        Silly NBarnes. The F-22 is a FIGHTER. A mans aircraft! The F-35B is a support aircraft, barely suitable to share the same runways. The F-22 could blow up on a takeoff and it would still be the more worthy airframe.

        • NBarnes

          For me, the real amusement is the idea that the technical-difficulties-plagued F-35B should be dropped for the even-more-technical-difficulties-plagued F-22.

      • Some Guy

        I always thought the F-22 should have been called the Penguin. Dawww, lookit him waddle ‘is widdle paddle feet! Seriously, take a top-down view, then look at a poster for Happy Feet. I dare you.
        Can’t imagine why that hasn’t caught on.

        The F-35B just started sea trials on the Wasp last week. I’m not sure it really has quite the amphibious versatility Farley believes it does.
        It looks like it still needs about +100y for take-off, so while it certainly does not require a 100,000-ton super carrier to launch and recover, you’ll still need a some-what dedicated carrier group to operate effectively.

      • Alan Tomlinson

        The military, as if it were a monolithic entity which in the US it is surely not, is at least partly to blame for the lack of clarity of names. The navy, in its unbridled arrogance, calls the F-18 an F/A-18 in the hope that the additional /A makes it cooler than any other fighter.

        But I digress, assuming the F-35B actually has an acceptable flight/maintenance hours ratio(does it?) I would agree with Dr. Farley on the sub-point. On the larger point, how can anyone with a respectable ration of intelligence not think that some intelligent cutting of the defense budget would be a good thing.


        Alan Tomlinson

        • NBarnes

          I was under the impression that ‘A’ tags don’t make anything cooler and that the F-14 and F-22 are inherently more manly than the F/A-18 and F-35 because the former don’t have any pussy strike capability diluting their testosterone?

          On the other hand, I suspect that the A tag does make them an easier sell to Congress. Wasn’t the F-18 supposed to be cheaper than the previously awesome-but-too-expensive F-14 and F-15?

  • DocAmazing

    First, I really would like a job as a Lockheed Martin PR flack, or a Fox News “Democrat.”

    Always keep an eye on that next opportunity.

  • wengler

    You might as well shill for it, since it will be last manned fighter that will hit the production line. The autonomously controlled robotics are getting quite scary in proficiency. Add those to the remote controlled Predators and the Age of Killer Robots will have begun.

    • Amanda in the South Bay

      Until we get back to sub orbital and spaceplanes.

    • NBarnes

      I suspect the reactionaries in the USAF are going to manage to get one more generation of air-superiority fighters out of Congress before they finally lose the battle against air superiority UAVs. They shouldn’t, but since when has that stopped the USAF from pursuing bad ideas?

      • dave

        But, y’know, when the UAVs go rogue, it’ll be down to a ragtag bunch of washed-up fighter-jocks to save the day, flying by the seat of their pants [and without a functional O2 system…]

        At least one of them will also be a Hot Chick. Bonus!

        • Marek

          I am interested in your ideas and would like to option your screenplay.

  • c u n d gulag

    Maybe I’m stupid, but, outside of the fact that this is an American plane, how different is it from the British-designed Harrier jets, the last one of which rolled off the assembly line some 8 years ago?

    • Robert Farley

      These are questions that can be answered by Wikipedia, but in short the difference is that the F-35B exceeds the Harrier in every performance metric (most by a very substantial margin), and is also much easier to fly than the Harrier.

      • c u n d gulag

        Thanks, Robert.
        Sorry I wasted your time.
        I checked Wikipedia for info on the Harrier, but not on the new plane.

        I just question spending a lot of money to update something that was good enough to be around for almost 50 years, and, though no longer being built, is still being used.

        Maybe I’m jaded after all of the stupid boondoggles the military industrial complex has sold to the military branches. Sometimes, it seems like the companies slap a hood-scoop on a Camero, call it a massive upgrade, and want billions more per for making the same car with the scoop.
        Or the want to sell a 5-wheel Camero, with heavy armour and cannons, and are surprised when the prototype’s best time in a quarter-mile drag is February.

        In other words, either useless and costly upgrades, or something that can serve no earthly purpose.
        Kind of like my favorite, the exploding troop carrier – the M2 Bradley Infantry Fighting vehicle which was basically an updated and more expensive version of the World War II Sherman tank, and went up in flames faster than Richard Pryor (rest his beautiful, funny soul).

        But, ok, if this new plane is going to be THAT superior, and be used for another 30-50 years, than I guess the expense can be justified.

  • gman

    Forget the job on Fox or PR job…just get a big LMT ad buy on LGM!

  • Halloween Jack

    Your efforts to propagate cool toys is noted and appreciated.

  • mac

    Tactically, your argument makes sense.

    I still fail to see a strategic value to any aircraft costing the entire budget of the National Endowment of the Arts.

    It’s just a huge target, even–especially–when parked at the airbase.

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