The F 35: World’s Most Expensive Weapon Program Set to Become Operational This Month
After fifteen years of development, The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Program will become ready for combat missions this month. This comes after running three years behind schedule and using additional $200 billion over its initial budget.
The fighter jet has taken half a dozen years of testing and a myriad of hardware malfunctions and software hitches in the development process. Once it is declared ready for use, it will become the most expensive weapon system in the history of the world, and also the most advanced in the sky.
Also known as the Joint Strike Fighter, The F-35 is said to be the most lethal and versatile aircraft in the modern times. It is designed with a combination of stealth capabilities, supersonic speed, radar-jamming abilities, state-of-the-art fusion technology and extreme agility.
This fifth-generation stealth jet fighter was initially conceived in 2001 to advance the aging U.S military tactical fleet, so that rivals could not be able to topple the United States of America in the air.
Commenting on America’s plans to upgrade its air power, Rep. Jeff Miller, a Florida Republican said, ‘’air superiority is an integral tenant in our strategy for national defense. We have a whole host of aging air platforms, some with technology that dates back to the ‘60s and ‘70s.
He pointed out Russia and China as the main reasons behind the attempts by U.S to advance its air power as it retires old platforms. However, he noted that, ‘’Air superiority was not an issue in Iraq and Afghanistan. But with the President’s strategy of rebalancing our forces back to the Pacific, and given China’s territorial aggression in the South China Sea and Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, having this air superiority proves to be a strategic hindrance against such threats.’’
Replacing the specialized roles performed by older jet fighters, the single-seat F-35 can accomplish air-to-air combat, air-to-ground strikes, intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance missions, according to JSF’s primary contractor, Lockheed Martin.
This month, the Military will declare the Marine Corps’ version of the F-35 ‘’ready for combat,’’ implying it has undergone enough development and passed all the proper tests required before the release for combat missions. Although the Marines are not planning to actually use the plane for the next one year, the announcement is a great step for the program considering its technical readiness for deployment.
The F-35 has lots of other innovative features. It is built with a unique design that allows pilots to instantly share data amongst themselves and also commanders. The jet fighter can penetrate enemy territory without being detected by radar. Besides, its specialized helmet display enables pilots to have a 360-degree view of their surroundings.
These benefits however, come with a huge price tag of nearly $400 billion for 2, 457 planes. This is almost twice the initial budget. According to the Government Accountability Office, the Pentagon will spend about $1 trillion for the maintenance and operation of the JSF program during the period of its lifetime. And, the cost could go even higher.