Downside of Dominance?
Popularity of Lockheed Martin’s F-16 Makes Its F-35 Stealth Jet a Tough Sell
By Michael S. Rosenwald
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, December 17, 2007; D01
FORT WORTH — Here in Hangar 8, three shifts of Lockheed Martin technicians assemble F-16s, one of the most powerful and widely used fighter jets in history. They work tediously by hand — bolt by bolt, wire by wire — turning the plane’s belly into a colorful work of industrial art later covered by 18,000 pounds of aluminum. The saying around here: Kick the tire, light the fire and then watch the thing zoom away.
. . . An F-16 has never lost an air-to-air battle . . . “There’s a pretty good argument to keep building new F-16s forever,” said Michael O’Hanlon, a senior fellow and military analyst at the Brookings Institution. “It’s hard to say you can get a better bang for your buck.”. . .
. . . But most importantly, according to Defense and Lockheed officials, the newer jet will be able to do one thing that an F-16 can’t: go undetected by enemy radar.
“The F-16 is a tremendously capable plane that just keeps proving its worth, even in combat operations today in Iraq and Afghanistan and with nations around the world,” said Bruce Lemkin, deputy undersecretary of the Air Force for international affairs. “But the F-35 is going to be a jump into another dimension of performance and capability.”
All of which beggars the question of whose radar we are going to slip under and why? China? They’re going to attack the home of Wal-Mart? Iran? You kidding?
“You have to assume with globalization that technology is spreading rapidly around the world,” said Jacques Gansler, former undersecretary of defense for acquisition. “The F-35 is really a future system for when everyone will have sophisticated radars.”
Well, that’s the kind of rhetorical glop you could expect from an undersecretary of defense for acquisition–acquisition is in his job description. That whole ‘everyone will have‘ mind-set is what has us spending half a trillion a year on a military that can’t whip an insurgency from the 10th century, using nothing more sophisticated than what they pick up from our leavings.
Which doesn’t exactly beat the drum for more and more expensive leavings.