Joint Strike Fighter Case Study
The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, also known as the Lightning II, is a multi-role fighter airplane being procured for the Air Force, Navy, and Marine. The Joint Strike Fighter program is the Department of Defense’s largest next-generation weapon system in terms of the cost of total estimated acquisition (Gertler, 2018). The joint program is a result of the collaborative efforts of the Navy, Air Force, and Marine, which aim at reducing costs of future strike technology by maturing and transitioning advanced concepts such as the strategy-to-task-technology (Gertler, 2018). An integrated team of developers and users is involved in helpingto determine which technologies will be pursued and funded.
The Marine Corps was initially developing its own aircraft to serve in place of the AV-8B Harrier. In 1984, however, Congress authorized the Marine to merge its efforts with the Air Force Navy program in order to customize a system that would fulfill multiple roles to gain economies of scale (Cozzarin & Lam, 2014). This step would lower the costs of developing, procuring, and supporting three different aircraft designs to meet almost similar services.
According to General Welsh, the Chief of Staff of the Air Force, the U.S. has dominated the air for over 60 years, and so it is essential to maintain the superiority (Maldonado, 2015). According to Gertler (2009), as cited by Maldonado, air superiority is highly prioritized in countries that dominate the global air. These countries strive to gain ample control of the airspace and maintain it through retaliation whenever faced with a threat. Since the United States maintains air superiority, it is subject to constant threats due to various issues including production delays, high budgets, and technology errors (Maldonado, 2015). An advanced weapon systemwas required to sustain air superiority on a global scale. The United States alongside its international partnerscame up with the F-35 fighter to replace legacy aircraft in order to enhance combat operations (Maldonado, 2015).
The F-35 is the largest American acquisition in history (Maldonado, 2015). The JSF dates back to the 1980s after several failures to provide sustainable tactic air striker acquisition program. In the early 1990s, Les Aspin, the Defense Secretary stated the need the need for defense reforms in terms of “modernization, infrastructure, and foundation” in the aftermath of the Cold War (Maldonado, 2015). The aircraft will deliver the United States and its allies highly advanced fifth-generation capabilities. In 1996, JSF announced that Boeing and Lockheed would contest in the establishment of the aircraft designs for the trial stage. Lockheed Martin was later announced as the company to develop the fighter program.
The F-35 is being procured in three different versions tailored to meet the specific needs of the military services. The main features include takeoff and landing, carrier suitability, and fuel capacity among others (Steidle, 1997).
Air Force CTOL Version (F-I35A)
The Air Force will acquire 1,763 F-35As, whose standard feature is the conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL) system. This will be a more affordable and enhanced version of the F-22 Raptor air fighter, with more capability in air-to-ground combat (Gertler, 2018).
Marine Corps Version (F-35B)
The Marine Corps plans to purchase 353 F-35Bs,which will have a short takeoff and a vertical landing (STOVL) (Gertler, 2018).
Navy Version (F-35C)
The Navy department plans to purchase 273 F-35Cs, which bear a carrier-suitable CTOL system. The Marines will also procure 67 F-35Cs (Gertler, 2018).
The Pratt & Whitney was tasked with manufacturing the F-35’s engine. The aircraft’s vertical lift system will be developed by Rolls-Royce, which will serve as Pratt & Whitney’s subcontractor. The DOD, in line with the Congressional FY1996 defense budget, developed a program for an alternate engine for the F-35 (Maldonado, 2015). The GE Transportation was awarded the contract to build the F136 engine.
The F-35A has a sophisticated sensor package, which gathers and allocates data in a more improved manner. This element enhances the pilots’ safety during threats. Other features include “open architecture, high processing power, and flexible communication links” (Maldonado, 2015). Due to the F-35B’s vertical landing and takeoff capability, it will perform extraordinarily in all threat environments by enabling operations from damaged airstrips, remote locations, and major bases among other settings (Maldonado, 2018). The F-35C has a wider wingspan than other observable aircraft with advanced weapon system like A and B (Sherman, 2016).
The F-35 program, being the most expensive acquisition in the American history, intends to remain in the budget until its execution in 2037 (Maldonado, 2018). JSF’s budget is $1 trillion, as passed by Congress. $300 billion was used in the procurement of 2,456 fighters while close to $700 billion was set aside for the continued maintenance of the systems (Maldonado, 2018).
The program is, however, almost reaching $400 billion, which is a setback to its execution plan (Rand, n.p). There have also been controversies surrounding the procurement of the program. These claims await approval by the Quadrennial Review, which will determine whether the Air Force buys more or less F-35s than earlier planned (Maldonado, 2015). In 2010, March, DOD stated that the JSF program had exceeded the planned cost, which was a violation of the 2010 Nunn-McCurdy containment law (Gertler, 2018). With such challenges, including production delays and errors, the F-35 fighter might not be executed in 2037.
Gertler, J. (2018, April 23). F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) Program. Congressional Research Service. CRS Report Prepared for Members and Committees of Congress. Retrieved from https://fas.org/sgp/crs/weapons/RL30563.pdf
Cozzarin, B.P. & Lam, D. (2014, March-April). The Joint Strike Fighter Program/ F-35 Program. A Canadian Technology Policy Perspective. Air and Space Power Journal. Retrieved from www.airuniversity.af.mil/Portals/10/ASPJ/journals/Volume…/F-Lam-Cozzarin.pdf
Maldonado, M.M. (2015, June). Qualitative Case Study on F-35 Fighter Production Delays Affecting National Security Guidance. Walden Dissertations and Doctoral Studies Collection. Retrieved from https://scholarworks.waldenu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1588&context=dissertations
Rand. (n.p.). Description of the Joint Strike Fighter Program. Rand.org. Retrieved from https://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/monograph_reports/MR1362/MR1362.ch2.pdf
Sherman R. (2016, Nov 2). Joint Strike Fighter (JSF). FAS. Military Analysis Network. Retrieved from https://fas.org/man/dod-101/sys/ac/jsf.htm
Steidle, C.E. (1997). The Joint Strike Fighter Program. Johns Hopkins APL Technical Digest, 18(1). Retrieved from https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/b3de/463970b76704c4ce71416a0554faf322c2b8.pdf