The recent remarks by the US Air Force chief of staff about the evaluation of the new 4.5-generation fighter to replace the 16-F caused many to label the 35-F as unsuccessful. Wet will be exploited and will be cost-effective for low-level combat.
Possible fighter advancement
Now only analysis and modeling is done to determine if the new design approach can build a fighter that is less expensive in low-level combat than Lightning? The Air Force is deeply concerned about the cost-effectiveness of the 1763 358-F program to replace old jets. The problem is not the price, which is now relatively stable. Each aircraft is worth $ 102.10 (according to some sources) $ 89 million, so Lockheed’s ad for $ 80 million failed. But it is still cheaper or equivalent to the price of the most advanced 4.5 generation western jets. While their survival against modern Russian and Chinese defense systems Significantly less than 35-F. The main problem is the survival of the order of 1763 aircraft, continuous heavy support and high operating costs. At $ 36,000 per flight hour, it’s significantly more than the target of $ 25,000 by 2025, and well above the F-16.
So if the Air Force replaces each with F-35, the cost will likely not be available in the operating budget and will require a major reduction in other capabilities. So Lightning failed to live up to its promise of a cheap multi-role stealth fighter that would replace old jets at a similar cost. But that does not mean that 35-F is a failure! to this It does not necessarily mean that the number of orders in favor of the new fighter will be significantly reduced. Examining the challenges facing the Air Force clarifies the reason.
The first and most important challenge
There is no guarantee that a new fighter will be a viable alternative. The Jet 7-T and the sixth-generation NGAD fighter are the only aircraft to significantly reduce development costs with the digital design approach compared to the traditional method, but the NGAD 7-T training is proof of technology, according to the chief of staff. The new fighter will feature cruise control and a modular digital architecture that can update and reconfigure software in flight. Also, the expansion of modern defense systems has made even a fighter whose mission is mainly low-level combat, need some stealth or at least a set of sensors and a strong defense system. Designing and building such a fighter at a lower cost than the set threshold, even with a digital design approach, is not that simple. 35 – F showed how much software complexity can add to program risk, cost growth, and latency. The relatively new mid-range jet, which could cost $ 70 million, will cost about $ 100 billion, with enough development and production to replace the Air Force’s approximately 16,000 F! Assuming it is much more efficient and ambitiously less than F-35. While the Air Force still wants hundreds of lightning strikes against modern enemies. Because it is the most powerful tool of defense suppression and ISTAR (surveillance information, reconnaissance and target acquisition) with great influence.
The Chief of Staff also stressed that the Air Force fully needs the F-35. Any decrease in the order will also increase the unit price and the cost of the flight! So the costs that are theoretically saved by buying a new fighter will be lower. Congress must also agree to buy a new fighter. Plus 21-B bomber, 46-KC fuel tanker, fighter NGAD air dominance to complement the old and small fleet of 22-F, J-7-T to replace the worn-out fleet of 38-T and the widespread purchase of drones such as Skyborg. Therefore, a possible outcome for the low-cost option in low-level combat is the further use of drones such as rappers and perhaps the 7-T combat type. Buying more relatively expensive but proven and flexible F-15EX fighters can also be considered. The purchase is now aimed at replacing the F15C / D air superiority hunter. But it can be expanded to replace the F15E and F16 attack fighters at low and medium threat operations at the right time.
35 – Reduce F in favor of more B21 and UAVs. But not a tactical fighter with similar limitations. For Arab forces who want a tactical fighter to operate in a space threatened by advanced fighter and defense. There is no comparable alternative to the F-35. Note that beyond the combat capabilities of the fighter itself, Lightning can increase its significant situational awareness with other aerial and sometimes superficial assets, increasing their survival and lethality. Significantly multiplies
It depends on the outcome of the analysis of other options. Over 1,000 copies of all copies will be purchased by foreign customers, the US Marine Corps and the US Navy. By no means can Lightning be considered a failed project, only Lockheed’s exaggerated sales promises became problematic, creating impossible expectations about the balance of power, cost, and fleet size. So foreign countries with a much smaller fleet than the United States will be in a more difficult situation. So far, more than 628 Lightning has been built, including 360 in the United States (including 283)
– The second reason
Lightning performed very well in training and combat operations by the United States and foreign users such as Israel, although it was more expensive than expected. Pilots in Red Flag drills constantly say that 35-F is a transformative feature in the sky. It is very difficult to detect in fire control radar and has unique sensors that combine to give the pilot a remarkable positional awareness. Due to its processing power and advanced radar, it also has a high power in electronic attack. It is ideal for suppressing defense and attacking heavily guarded targets. Have . While the new cheaper fighter is weaker in the medium and high threat environment, in addition to the need for heavy support, it leaves a lot of casualties and in practice, increases the cost. However, the greatest operational constraints of F-35 occur in the Pacific and Indian Oceans. Where conflict intervals in a possible battle against China make all fighters dependent on the support of vulnerable fuel tankers. It might buy.
For the reasons we have stated, in addition to the cost and time associated with a new potential fighter, the F-35 will be critical to the United States and its allies for decades to come. But due to high operating costs, the number of orders is expected to be lower than the long-term forecast. The long and expensive development of the 35-F resulted in highly capable and unique fighters that, while not suitable for some missions (close air defense and support), were the only effective way to handle most high-level tasks. While the new imaginary fighter has tens of billions of dollars and many years to become an operational option. Eventually, the Air Force will likely have 600 to 1,000 F-35As. Change order, The service became the second largest Air Force fighter after 16-F! It should also be noted that the resulting economic prosperity is the result of a high level of supply chain and job creation. Hundred 35-F has been serving the F-35A for decades around the world. Therefore, in the first years, they will do that in addition to production, they need spare parts and support. This requires a significant amount of jobs and capital. Even reducing Air Force orders is not bad news for foreign customers as they have to make more efforts to reduce operating costs. The chief of staff’s remarks show that, in Washington’s view, the 35-F is no longer the only actor in future combat programs, but will be the biggest actor.