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Unveiling the Truth: Debunking the Cost Myth of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter

A few years ago, during a Red Flag combat exercise, a single F-35 managed to discover, identify, and eliminate an entire squadron of enemy planes without being detected. Several supporters of the F-35 and high-ranking Air Force officials had the opportunity to witness the operational impact of the aircraft in a combat zone for the first time during this event. This war game represented one of the initial significant instances where the F-35 functioned as intended or envisioned in a large-scale, high-intensity warfare scenario against advanced adversaries and 5th-generation enemy aircraft. Sufficient Complaints About The Expensiveness of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter – MilitaryView The F-35 in an expanded role It also addressed a crucial question about the F-35.

What if, in the midst of escalating threats and complex enemy attack vectors in a major war, a small group of F-35s could execute missions with highly potent weapons to swiftly achieve war objectives and avoid a prolonged and deadly conflict? Precisely targeted precision strikes could accomplish more than a slow ground war strategy. Analysts assessing costs and critics of the F-35 might recognize the high price of the program if a small number of F-35s could quickly achieve significant and impactful outcomes in a major war, thereby avoiding the need for extended operations with a high casualty count. Could existing F-35s save the Pentagon money? An intriguing policy paper from the Mitchell Institute in 2020, titled “Resolving America’s Defense Strategy-Resource Mismatch,” argues that when considering the overall cumulative operating cost, the acquisition and maintenance expenses of the F-35 are actually much cheaper than what current critics perceive. Conclusions drawn from the document regarding the F-35 The ruling, according to the Mitchell document, is procedural.

The document asserts that the methods and criteria used to determine the costs and affordability of the F-35 have been inaccurate. The main point made by Mitchell is that stealth aircraft can yield cost savings when considering mission goals and success rates, but better measurements are needed to demonstrate the extent of these savings. “If advanced technologies and design allow the F-35s to achieve mission effects that would otherwise require multiple less capable (and higher risk) aircraft, then the F-35s will truly provide added value across various dimensions of the warfare system. In larger conflicts… The study suggests that, for future investments, the definition of “cost” should focus less on specific technologies and more on the organizational resources necessary to achieve mission objectives.

The current Air Force fleet consists of 81% 4th-generation aircraft and only 19% 5th-generation aircraft, which raises questions about fleet composition. What does this mean in practical terms? Regarding deployment and availability, if aircraft were suddenly required for urgent missions, the majority of available platforms would be 4th generation, depending on forward bases and readiness. Would it ultimately be more expensive to use a larger number of 4th generation aircraft for longer and riskier missions compared to deploying a small group of necessary F-35s? Depending on the operational requirements of a mission, this could be the case. Shouldn’t this kind of calculation be the primary consideration amidst ongoing discussions about F-35 cost assessments, production plans, and the sizing of the 5th generation fleet? A solution to the cost issues of the F-35 The Mitchell study proposes an alternative cost metric or analysis method to address some of the pressing problems related to F-35 costs.

The document suggests using a “cost by effect” analysis model to evaluate aircraft expenses. “Cost per effect” is an assessment measure that allows for evaluating the “business case” that underlies the compared technologies from an operational perspective, considering the effectiveness of the mission and fiscal efficiency, rather than solely focusing on the lower initial cost per unit of equipment that may only address one aspect of the kill chain,” the document states. In terms of numbers, Mitchell’s paper indicates that the hourly operating costs for an F-35 are around $35,000. In contrast, a 2021 Defense News report states that F-15EX operating costs are approximately $29,000 per hour, and Jane’s estimates the F/A-18’s hourly operating costs at $24,000. Based on this available information, it seems that the F-35 has slightly higher operating costs per hour compared to its 4th generation counterparts. However, when considering an overall cost evaluation metric that takes performance, operational usage, and mission effectiveness into account, what are the implications? Desert Storm Analysis The study analyzed the initial airstrikes of Desert Storm many years ago, specifically examining the assets and resources required to achieve mission objectives using the “cost per effect” assessment model. According to the conclusions, 41 aircraft were needed to carry out sweep and escort missions, suppress enemy air defenses, and conduct bombing raids. However, with the use of stealth platforms, the analysis concluded that only 20 aircraft were necessary. Conclusion Overall, mission operating expenses could be reduced since stealth aircraft can achieve the same results while being more efficient and effective. Moreover, the use of stealth significantly enhances survivability, giving the pilots conducting strike missions a much better chance of survival.

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