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.