Dr Zubi Al Zubi
The Joint Strike Fighter:
And Decisions Ahead
Abstract. The Joint Strike Fighter F-35 is presumably a state-of-the-art jet fighter and surely a challenging international cooperation project. The latter intertwines the politics, the industrial policies and the military alliances of a dozen countries. Of course, the US leads the way and keeps its control on every stage of this ambitious blueprint, where different partners, whether allies or clients, have been selected on the basis of their “relationship” with America and their financial contribution (Level 1, Level 2 and Level 3 partners) to the JSF project. The purpose of this article is to highlight the flaws of this industrial cooperation, the increasing costs of the JSF, and a certain arrogance shown by Washington in dealing with its main partners. Even its historical WWII ally, the UK, lamented this behavior and thought of different alternatives to equip its new aircraft carrier(s) and the Royal Air Force with cheaper and more British- industry friendly airplanes or, maybe, the CTOL version only. Italy’s national interest is also at stake and it is striving to obtain more concessions on the weapon systems or the assembly line in conjunction with London’s requests vis-à-vis the US stubbornness to maintain its industrial and military supremacy.
Keywords: Air Force; Military Industry; EU-US Relations.
The F-35 Lightning II is a multipurpose, stealth, single-seat, and single-engine, combat aircraft. At present, the latter’s manufacturer, Lockheed Martin, presents its F-22 and F-35 as the only “fifth-generation” fighter-bombers
* This Research is conducted by the Following Student of University of Jordan:
Sanad A Bushnaq
websites last consulted on Nov 11, 2012). The state-of-the-art airplane must weigh between 13 and 15 tons. It can carry 2.3 tons of ordnance in its weapons bay to remain stealth during the first strikes (i.e., the so-called “First Day of War”). Beyond this, it can carry up to 7.7 tons of stores between its bomb bay and its under-wing pylons. It must have an electronic-aperture-radar (AESA) and an optronic system, coupled with an aiming display integrated in the helmet visor, which allows the pilot to literally “see through” the plane’s fuselage. It can operate within a network or completely autonomously. The Joint Strike Fighter is the result of the 1994 merger of two projects: the Joint Advanced Strike Technology (JAST), and the Common Affordable Lightweight Fighter (CALF). It is most likely to be the last manned fighter-jet designed in the United States.
ONE AIRPLANE, THREE VERSIONS
The development blueprint of the JSF is exceptional, insofar as it has been finalized before the manufacture of the plane, as it is aimed to the different branches of the US Defense: US Air Force (USAF), US Navy (USN) and US Marine Corps (USMC), notwithstanding the repeated failures of such joint initiatives in the past decades1.
In addition, the types of tasks the said plane is able to perform must respect strict standards and its production subject to stringent cost management, because it must be affordable to the air forces of the US “allies.” Consequently, the JSF has to be manufactured in high numbers and within a short period of time.
One thinks immediately of the F-111 Program, orchestrated by US Defense Secretary Robert
McNamara, of which the A version had to become the US Navy fighter-bomber (later on the F- 14 Tomcat) and the B version had to become a USAF tactical bomber. The Services repeatedly fought each other on a bureaucratic level in order to keep still in the running some competing and distinct projects, as was the case for the F-16/F-17 or more recently for the EA-6B.
The program design faces contradictions, and...