MY PROGRAM FOR REPLACING THE F-35: THE ALTERNATIVES ARE OUTSTANDING!

The DoD plans to buy about 1750 F-35As for the USAF, 340 F-35Bs and 80 F-35Cs for the USMC, and 260 F-35Cs for the USN. Given my vocal distaste for the wasteful F-35 program, I am often asked what the DoD should procure if I got my wish and the F-35 was cancelled? My answer is posted below. It features a much more capable and diversified ultra-modern force structure that actually replaces all our old fighters and tactical platforms with new ones and funds future UCAV development and procurement while saving money, shrinking delivery schedules and increasing much-needed “iron on the ramp” dramatically. When evaluating the F-35’s alternative, it is really amazing how much this one size fits all boondoggle of a weapons program damages our aerial combat potential and does so at great cost to the tax payer. Without further adieu:

USAF:

F-35A proposed buy-

$175,000,000,000 for  1750 F-35 @ $100,000,000 per copy average

My plan-

$30,000,000,000 for 200 F-22As @ $150mil per copy

$51,300,000,000 1140 F-16 BLOCK 50/52++ (similar to F-16IN) @ $45mil per copy

$13,884,000,000 178 F-15SE @ $78mil per copy (replaces proposed F-15C+ Golden Eagles 1:1)

$4,400,000,000 200 LO UCAV @ $22mil per copy (Predator C or similar)

$6,500,000,000 100 UCAV+ @ $60mil per copy (super-cruising stealth UCAV to act as standalone UCAV or arsenal ship for F-22)

$68,750,000,000 250 FB-22 @ $275mil per copy (much needed persistent stealth fighter bomber and long-term replacement for F-15E)

TOTAL AIRFRAMES: 2,068 TOTAL COST: $174,834,000,000

NET AIRFRAME GAIN: +318

USN:

Proposed F-35C buy-

$35,100,000,000 260 F-35C @ $135mil per copy

My plan:

$16,900,000,000 260 F/A-18BLOCK III @ $65mil per copy

$10,000,000,000 200 UCAV+ @ $50mil per copy

TOTAL AIRFRAMES:  460 TOTAL COST: $26,900,000,000

NET AIRFRAME GAIN: 200  TOTAL COST SAVINGS: $8,200,000,000

USMC:

Proposed F-35C/B buy-

$51,000,000,000 340 F-35B @ 150 $mil per copy

$10,800,000,000 80 F-35C @ 135mil $per copy

TOTAL AIRFRAMES: 420 TOTAL COST: $61,800,000,000

My Plan:

$1,200,000,000 60 SURPLUS UK GR9 @ $20mil per copy

$12,000,000,000 200 SUPER HARRIER $60mil per copy

$13,200,000,000 220 F/A-18BLOCK III @ $60mil per copy

$3,000,000,000 150 PREDATOR C @ $20mil per copy

TOTAL AIRFRAMES: 630 TOTAL COST: $29,400,000,000

NET AIRFRAME GAIN: 210 TOTAL COST SAVINGS: $32,400,000,000

————————————————————————————–

TOTAL CURRENT F-35 AIRFRAME ORDER: 2,430

TOTAL AIRFRAME ORDER UNDER MY PLAN: 3,158

TOTAL NET AIRFRAME GAIN UNDER MY PLAN: 728

TOTAL MANNED AIRFRAME NET GAIN: 78

TOTAL UNMANNED AIRFRAME GAIN: 650

TOTAL CURRENT F-35 PROGRAM AS STATED HERE: $271,900,000,000

TOTAL COST OF MY PROGRAM: $212,434,800,000

TOTAL PROGRAM COST SAVINGS: $59,465,200,000

My program truly modernizes America’s air arms with a mix of cutting edge new technologies, some even more advanced and useful than the F-35, while also procuring highly updated, proven and cost-effective platforms that are available for purchase, or near available for purchase, today. This plan also allows “new technology” programs to have time to mature with no panicked rush which usually involves throwing cash at the problem with reckless abandon in hopes of unrealistic developmental and delivery time-frames so that worn out hardware can be replaced. In other words, no “concurrency.” Further, almost every capability procured is shared by another platform in this plan, so if there are issues with one program then another can pick up the capability slack. Further, there are no new manned aircraft developments here. Every manned airframe proposed is an outgrowth from an existing proven program, thus lowering risk and development costs drastically. This program also gives our forces costly all aspect stealth technology only where it is needed yet at the same time all the updated legacy platforms mentioned, minus the F-16 Block 50++, will have a high degree of low observable upgrades, making them competitively stealthy in the forward hemisphere. These platforms being the F-15SE and the F/A-18E/F BLOCKIII.

The F-15SE purchase would replace the proposed F-15C “Golden Eagle” upgrade program. This program is flawed as the F-15C is an old aircraft and they are in many ways worn out. A new radar and other boltons are great, but an aircraft featuring fully updated systems with modern and reliable components and an airframe that has a more realistic chance of survival over the modern battlefield is much better. These aircraft would be used primarily for homeland defense with a secondary ground attack capability, but will be available to augment the F-22 which has been increased in numbers from 187 to 387 in this plan. Further my program replenishes the AV-8B harrier fleet with surplus ex-RAF GR.9s in the near term and a Super Harrier or STOVL UCAV in the longer term. My program also gives America a much-needed highly capable stealth regional bomber in the FB-22. This will not only be an eventual replacement for the F-15E but it will also give us an aircraft that can counter China over the South China Sea without continuous close proximity (and thus vulnerable) tanker support. I can also provide persistent close air support over the battlefield. Although this aircraft would be a fantastic interceptor it will also be an incredible bomber and will take some stress off America’s tiny B-2 bomber fleet until the Next Generation Bomber is fielded, which could take decades.

In the end my plan not only gives our air forces a massive capability increase via a robust high-low mix of technologies and capabilities while investing in our “unmanned” future, but it also saves the American tax payer billions while at the same time it increases planned airframe procurement by over 25%. Further, this plan can be easily adjusted and adapted to fit budgetary constraints and the warfighter’s needs as losing one aircraft type or decreasing its numbers will not leave America with a massive strategic deficit. In the end buying a one size fits all, compromised design, such as the F-35, leaves America in a much worse and less adaptable strategic position than the logical and more agile plan offered here. Further, in comparison to the F-35 program, any savings that was originally thought to have been achieved through commonality will be made irrelevant as a more flexible and sustainable force will deliver much greater savings over time than simple commonality between aircraft variants. In many ways the JSF concept is a failed philosophy and America’s alternatives to it offer more capability at a lower risk and overall cost.

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17 Responses to MY PROGRAM FOR REPLACING THE F-35: THE ALTERNATIVES ARE OUTSTANDING!

  1. WIll Neumayer says:

    Man, you are spot on. I wrote a letter to my Congressmen summarizing nearly the same Hi/Lo manned/unmanned mix earlier this Spring. I have been debating with myself whether to write to the new SecDef when he takes over with the same plea.

    Have you considered writing to him? To your legislators? I realize it is most likely utterly futile, but HOW can you argue with this kind of common sense?

    Keep up the good work. Love the blog

    • aviationintel.com says:

      Thanks man! Yeah a modified version of this went out to several armed services committee members and my state reps and senators. More will be going out soon!

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  13. Arnold says:

    I think FB-22’s will be cheaper because much of the program costs were covered by the ATF. And maybe if the Navy take part of the FB-22 and employ’s them, the unit cost will be lower. And maybe if the USMC takes part also it will be cheaper. Or the F-14E/F Super Tomcat 21’s would be cooler. The F-16 you commented on should be replaced by F-22A, B, or FB; and F-14E/F should replace it. The F-15E is still good and shouldn’t be replaced until the 2020’s.

    • aviationintel.com says:

      Arnold, sadly I do not see an navalized F-22 or FB-22 happening ever. It would require a major redesign to make that happen. The subsystems may be similar but the aircraft would have to be highly modified to operate off of a carrier.

  14. Arnold says:

    True aviationintel, but just to make the F-15C Replacement cheaper, existing F-15C’s should be upgraded to the F-15SE standard and include TVC nozzles. But other then that, your plan is spot on.

  15. James Tira says:

    I would suggest that you consider the Pacific Pivot, i.e. the problem with the relatively short range F/A 18 E/F would leave the Navy’s carriers in close proximity to the Chinese DF21’s. What about replacing the F/A 18’s with a modernized F-14 Super Tomcat that was dismissed [based upon politics I presume] and a Navalized F-23[ that does not aphixiate its pilot and has a better performance/flight envelope]. The Tomcats would be cheaper and have a greater range and solve the DF-21 problem. The navalized F-23 would be a true air superiority fighter. And along those lines instead of retiring the George Washington, the new CVN-79 [the Kennedy] should be delayed until the Ford is proven to work right, the catapult failure rate and the trapping system still have unacceptable failure rates. Perhaps, a SLEP [service life enhancement program] should be considered for the none nuclear carriers currently in the reserve fleet [Independence [CV62], Ranger [cv61], Constellation [CV64], Kitty Hawk [CV63],original Kennedy [CV67] and maybe even the Saratoga [CV60]. I would believe that these carriers could be modernized and brought into the fleet at a much cheaper cost than building new nuclear carriers and retiring the older ones with ten years left on their ships life. It would seem that the “Cold War” is about to be re-ignited by Russia and the North Korean’s are just as bellicose as they have been since the end of the Korean War. The Chinese are utilizing there new found economic power [American big businesses practice of exporting jobs not manufactured goods]to gain access to substantial portions of the Pacific at the expense of the Japan, Korea, Thailand, the Phillipines, Australia and even Vietnam.

    How to pay for all this, well perhaps a tax on imports [let the Chinese pay for the military build up, and the oil exporters of the Middle East.

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