The F-35: A Next Generation Thorn in the Side

The F-35, the  United States’ fifth-generation stealth fighter, is still stuck in more than a decade-long stall.

On Feb. 9, a premature copy of the Air Force’s fiscal year budget was posted on their website, but was quickly taken down in a matter of minutes. However, that didn’t stop journalists from downloading the document. Some surprising cuts for the F-35 were subsequently revealed. The program is being cut by 45 planes over the next ten years, according to arstechnica.

The Bloomberg News reported that the proposed budget stands at the following:

  • 63 F-35s for 2017, down from 66
  • 70 in 2018, down from 88
  • 80 in 2019, down from 90
  • 86 in 2020, down from 92

In an opening statement for the budget plans, the Air Force gave brief reasoning for the cuts saying, “The Air Force is facing a modernization bow wave in critical nuclear and space programs over the next 10 years that, under current funding levels, we simply cannot afford.”

This is just one more straw on the back of the F-35 program, which is already buckling under numerous issues despite being the most advanced fighter of its time. Here are just a few of the issues the program has faced since its beginnings in the early 2000’s:

  • software delays
  • protection from lightning
  • helmet display issues
  • unreliable components
  • faulty ejection seats
  • dogfighting issues

The life of the program so far has cost the military 1.5 trillion dollars, and positive results are only beginning to surface now.

Some of you probably heard (or felt) the successful supersonic testing that occurred off the coast of New Jersey. And on Feb. 6, an Italian Air Force F-35 made the jet’s first transatlantic flight to NAS Patuxent River, MD. Despite slight delays in turbulent weather, the fighter made it to the United States effortlessly. It also marks the first F-35 to be successfully built and flown overseas.

Despite the hurdles the F-35 program has had to overcome, there looks to be a slight light at the end of the tunnel.