Perhaps the most controversial military weapons purchase of the last few decades has been the F-35 fighter jet. Since its acquisition, legislators and analysts have raised concerns over the high cost and apparent below-standard operating capabilities.
It wasn’t that long ago that the Air Force’s Air Combat Command stood down the F-35A models over concerns surrounding the ejection seats. This week, the discovery of a component in the F-35 coming from China has the model shrouded in even more controversy.
But the F-35 isn’t the only system that the Department of Defense has had trouble with, which should make Americans very uncomfortable. With rising tensions with Russia and China, the prevailing question whispered throughout the country is; are we ready for a war if war comes?
BREAKING: The Pentagon has halted delivery of F-35 fighters to the military services and foreign militaries after Lockheed Martin discovered a metal component used in the jet’s engine was produced in China.
— Connor O'Brien (@connorobrienNH) September 7, 2022
Made in China
Defense contractor juggernaut Lockheed Martin discovered that a metal component found in a magnet within the engine came from none other than China. Which I suppose shouldn’t surprise any of us given that it seems like everything is made in China.
This discovery prompted the Pentagon to halt any further delivery of the fighter jet while investigating how Chinese metals found their way into the engines. But don’t worry, the SNAFU isn’t a threat, according to the F-35 Joint Program Office.
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“We have confirmed that the magnet does not transmit information and harm the integrity of the aircraft and there are no performance, quality, safety or security risks associated with the issue and flight operations for the F-35 in-service fleet will continue as normal.”
So what’s the big deal? Defense contractors are supposed to follow the Buy American statute. If they are found to violate that statute, they would need a national security waiver to resume deliveries.
If discovered that Lockheed Martin willfully violated the statute, I would argue if we grant them a national security waiver, that should concern us all.
Report: Pentagon has stopped accepting new F-35 jest after6it discovered a magnet used in the stealthy fighter's engine was made with unauthorized material from China.#F35 #US pic.twitter.com/lhgzrwMtNJ
— DefenceXP (@Defence_XP) September 8, 2022
More Money, More Problems
This discovery makes you wonder what our military-industrial complex is costing us. The cost of the F-35 alone is staggering.
Sustainment costs alone are outside the goal margins. For example, in 2020, it cost the Air Force $7.8 million to fly one F-35A. The goal that was set was $4.1 million.
In 2020 it cost the Navy $9.9 million to fly one F-35C; that goal marker was $7.5 million. According to last year’s Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, if expenses for the F-35 remain the same, the yearly cost overruns for the Defense Department could be $6 billion by 2036.
Frank Kendall just told Congress the F-35A costs $80 million. The #USAF budget documents just released tell a different story. The #F35 costs more than $115 million for one that would be of any use to anyone. pic.twitter.com/xCR98UxJ2B
— Dan Grazier (@dan_grazier) April 27, 2022
The procurement problems for the military aren’t new. Between 2001 and 2011, the Department of Defense spent about $46 billion on about a dozen weapon systems that never even entered the production phase.
According to the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, during that timeframe, the Army spent $18 billion on the Future Combat System and $8 billion on the Comanche Stealth helicopter that stalled in production. Those two purchases combined are more than the annual budget of NASA and the National Nuclear Security Administration combined.
As I’ve pointed out elsewhere, Russia’s entire defense budget is only $20 billion more than what we spent on weapons that never became real.
It’s not just the F-35 that has been mired in controversy. A little-known story made a brief blip in the news feed recently when the Army announced they were grounding their fleet of CH-47 Chinook helicopters.
Anyone who has ever served in any military branch is familiar with the Chinook. My husband was often shuttled around in Chinooks on the battlefield from one point to the next.
So why would the Army ground some 400 helicopters? Engine fires.
No one has been hurt from these engine fires, but there have been enough that the Army opted to ground the fleet for complete inspections. An Army spokeswoman said:
“The safety of our soldiers is the Army’s top priority, and we will ensure our aircraft remain safe and airworthy.”
The last thing we need as we continue to creep closer to cold war that might graduate to world war is our choppers and aircraft grounded due to procurement issues.
US Army has temporarily grounded its fleet of about 400 Chinook helicopters due to a risk of engine fires, a spokeswoman told Reuters
— ANI (@ANI) August 31, 2022
A Broken Machine
Recently the Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall said of our near-peer adversary China:
“We have a well-resourced, strategic, innovative competitor who is trying to defeat not just our current capabilities but thinking ahead to the capabilities that we’re going to field and already started down the road of developing capabilities to counter those.”
Whether he means it to be or not, his statement should be taken as a warning. China is no featherweight in the military defense sphere. It would be a mistake to believe we can keep operating as we always have when building our war machines.
Years ago, James Fallows of The Atlantic wrote an article that resonated with me. In it, he wrote:
“We buy weapons that have less to do with battlefield realities than with our unending faith that advanced technology will ensure victory, and with the economic interests and political influence of contractors.”
President Eisenhower tried to warn us about the influence of the growing military-industrial complex. But unfortunately, our reliance on these giants of war, our blindness to their innate motivations, and our abandonment of tried and true military principles put this country in danger.
#BigPharma hates healthy lifestyle choices because sick customers are more profitable.#DivorceLawyers hate happy couples because bitter acrimony is more profitable.#MilitaryIndustrialComplex hates peace because war is more profitable.
— Kelly Rek (@KellyRek) September 7, 2022
A Dangerous Pairing
I will be anxiously awaiting the results of the F-35 procurement investigation. How a metal from China made it into the engine of one of the most expensive aircraft models ever made is beyond me.
With our internal war-ready stocks dwindling, supply chain issues stalling production, and increased tensions in the world, this is the worst time to have problems with fighter jets and choppers. Add to that the increased social ideology focus in the military, and it’s clear we are not shaping up as the lethal fighting force we love to tout worldwide.
It’s not all that surprising that military recruitment levels are so low. Would you want your son or daughter shipping off to the military to learn about pronouns, their inherent victimhood or oppressor mentality, and fly in deficient aircraft?
— ThePoliticalInsider (@TPInsidr) September 7, 2022
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