The reality is that the nation needs the F-35 and backing off the program now would present exceedingly dangerous risk.
The United States Air Force faces a crucial juncture regarding the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Anyone watching the news over recent months could not miss the high-velocity onslaught against the program. Whether it was House Armed Services Chairman Adam Smith referring to the 5th generation fighter as a “rathole” or news headlines saying the aircraft “has failed,” the message was incredibly aggressive and caustic. The program is still experiencing its fair share of challenges, especially when it comes to software updates, the engine, and sustainment costs. However, such challenges pale in comparison to the accomplishments the aircraft are demonstrating each and every day they fly. Defense acquisition programs—particularly those adopting advanced technologies in new ways—are always riddled with challenges. To cast the F-35 as a failure is a massive inaccuracy. However, optics matter—especially when Congress is involved—and it is crucial that the Air Force regain control of the debate by interjecting real data, not alarmist conjecture. The reality is that the nation needs the F-35 and backing off the program now would present exceedingly dangerous risk.