New! Discounted F-35s on Amazon.com, 7% Off!


It’s a little hard to sort out the grifts when they’re so many-layered. So, please bear with me.

Apparently Trump’s pressuring Lockheed Martin squeezed around $700 million off of one of the F-35 contracts.

Of course, this is good news. It amounts to a 7% discount on that contract.

Suppose you’ve got a car manufacturer that makes three versions of a car: sporty, luxury, and stripped down. Then you advertise that the stripped down version is $90 million, the sporty version is mumble mumble something, and the luxury version is mumble something mumble what? Then you project that you’re going to sell more of the stripped down version! Look how much money your customers are saving!!

Here’s the problem: you’re still spending $90 million for the stripped down version, which is still a ludicrous price, even with a 7% discount. And you just don’t talk about the luxury model or the sports model, because that’s what you’re actually going to sell your customers, anyway. All of which is sort of a moot point, since the sporty version and the luxury version aren’t ready for sale, yet because they are still experiencing “teething pains”  But wait, it’s worse. See, the stripped down version you are selling? It’d just a training model, really: it can’t go very far, hasn’t got fully functional systems yet, etc.  So the real question that ought to be being asked is why are the taxpayers paying $8.5 billion for loads of a plane that isn’t combat-capable yet?  That’s the real trick.

By the way, the luxury version is 21% more expensive, and the sport version is 22% more expensive.

"It's just resting"

“It’s just resting” – $180 million worth of A-10 Warthogs

The F-35s that are being bought today will certainly need to be upward-versioned to a fully functional version if and when the fully functional version materializes. Or, they will wind up parked in rows in Arizona, deteriorating in the heat. Lockheed Martin is experienced enough at this game to know that presidents come and go, but nowaday’s procurement programs live forever. They’re going to win the contract to upgrade those F-35s to a new, working, version (if one ever materializes) or sell all new ones. They don’t care.

Meanwhile, Trump’s savings of ~$700 million on an $8.5 billion contract ignores the fact that the $8.5 billion contract is 90 out of a planned 3,500 planes. Many of which will be the sport and luxury models. Lockheed’s 2015 revenue was $46.1 billion, and they claim on their website that the F-35 program accounts for 20% of that. A little math says that in one year, the government bought $9 billion worth of F-35s back then (and they didn’t work back then, either) – Detroit’s not the only industry the Obama Administration helped prop up with huge handouts.

After Spicer took credit for the president Friday, Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island, the ranking Armed Services Democrat, responded more bluntly.

“This is simply taking credit for what’s been in the works for many months,” Reed told CNBC in a telephone interview. “These are savings that would have happened anyway.” [cnbc]

Scams within scams, layered in scam to make a scamwich, wrapped in waxed scampaper. You want it darker? Wait until Trump’s “swamp drainers” start working as lobbyists for the defense industry.

Remember: this is all paying for an airplane that is not ready to be used for its stated purpose. At this point, it’s a test/training vehicle, and the services and Lockheed Martin have pushed it into production to protect the program from cancellation because it’s an obvious failure. As Chuck Spinney points out:

Concurrency refers to the practice of placing a complex hi-tech weapon system into production, before it is completely designed.   Known in the Pentagon as “buy before you fly.” It is the opposite of commonsens engineering, yet concurrency has been business as usual in the Military – Industrial – Congressional Complex for many years,  the problem-plagued F-111 and C-5  in the 60s, and more recently the V-22 tilt rotor and the F-22 fighter being cases in point.

Why do we repeat a madness that both robs the taxpayer and puts defective weapons in the hands of soldiers year after year?

Concurrency has one paramount saving grace: Although it increases the risks to the taxpayer and soldiers, it reduces the risk the faction that benefits from the program’s continued life. By sucking a compliant Congress into the scam, the bureaucratic gamesters in the Pentagon and in the defense industry have figured out a strategy for unleashing the power of faction, in effect turning Madison’s theory of using checks and balances to curb the power of faction (see Federalist 10) on its head. [Spinney]

Comments

  1. Rob Grigjanis says

    robs the taxpayer and puts defective weapons in the hands of soldiers year after year

    There’s a handy little word for that. Treason. Yeah I know, nothing new there.

  2. says

    Rob Grigjanis@#1:
    There’s a handy little word for that. Treason. Yeah I know, nothing new there.

    Yup.

    Everyone who’s in line at the feeding trough has a belly full of money and blood on their hands.

  3. says

    Crimson Clupeidae@#3:
    Meanwhile, Aviation Week breathlessly reports that the F-35 dominated the latest read flag exercises….

    This sort of thing fascinates me. Because I really don’t know what’s B.S. and what’s not – though I have my suspicions. A lot of these scenarios depend heavily on starting assumptions, and the starting assumptions are usually wired in one direction or another. There is no doubt at all that the F-35’s stealth gives it a huge advantage in a first strike scenario, where the F-35s are going in against a target that basically can’t see them. There’s a presumption that there are no other sensors around, which will virtually never be the case, and that an enemy would have no idea there were F-35s in the area, which will virtually never be the case, etc. Most importantly, it presupposes that the hostiles are too stupid to realize that F-35s light up infrared like crazy. So you could create a scenario where a properly-equipped hostile could mousetrap a wing of F-35s pretty nicely, or you could create a scenario where a wing of F-35s are basically clubbing blind baby seals. I’m willing to accept that the F-35 will probably perform great in the wild, because it’s so expensive that it will only be deployed in the blind baby seal scenario.

    At 15:1 casualty rates, one F-35 that cost $100mm looks more like 3:1 dollar cost against F-16s that cost $18mm. Of course the trained pilots are really the loss: no air force could afford to lose 15 highly trained fighter pilots in a battle of attrition.

    I was bigtime into strategy gaming in high school and college and one of the guys from the gaming club went on to join the navy, and participated in some of the navy’s internal war games. He told me some fascinating stories, years later, which I’ve independently reconfirmed elsewhere – the way these war games are done is subject to intense lobbying in advance. For example, the aircraft carrier drivers try to make it an assumption of the game rules that aircraft carriers are nearly unsinkable. The sub drivers try to make it an assumption of the game rules that the subs are nearly undetectable. So you have unsinkable aircraft carriers escorted by undetectable subs, going up against sinkable “hostile” ships escorted by detectable subs. I remember how, back in the 80s, US military proponents used to criticize Soviet military exercises as highly scripted scenarios that didn’t show any initiative. Uhm. Yeah…

  4. says

    I am concerned that the F-35 is now being positioned as “not an air dominance fighter” – oh, OK, well then what the hell is it? I was surprised to see some rumblings about the air force wanting to test it against A-10s as a ground-support strike craft. I wonder if this is a repositioning of the plane’s role, “it’s a floor wax and a dessert topping!”

  5. leper says

    Stealth coatings don’t like the heat, so the incomplete F-35s may need air conditioned storage. More costs.

    Most of the US fighter fleet doesn’t have infrared sensors, and those that do rely on external pods, which may not be fitted. This makes it easy to stack the deck. Most of the F-35s expected future opponents (Russian and Chinese flankers and flanker derivatives) DO have infrared sensors built in.

    The Air Force wants to scrap the A-10s, which they will use to justify an increase in F-35 numbers. I’ll be shocked if the fly-off isn’t biased toward the F-35.

  6. Nogbert says

    The more waste and inefficiency in the US military the better. Hopefully these weapons will be totally useless, killing no one except perhaps the pilot.
    Just in case any of you haven’t noticed, the US are the bad guys now.

  7. says

    Nogbert@#7:
    The more waste and inefficiency in the US military the better. Hopefully these weapons will be totally useless, killing no one except perhaps the pilot.
    Just in case any of you haven’t noticed, the US are the bad guys now.

    I certainly agree that the US are the baddies.

    From my perspective, I’d rather that the money spent on the F-35 was invested in researching fusion power. Or improving infrastructure. Or building a national mental health service, etc. It’s best that this crap not be built at all.

  8. says

    leper@#6:
    Most of the US fighter fleet doesn’t have infrared sensors, and those that do rely on external pods, which may not be fitted. This makes it easy to stack the deck. Most of the F-35s expected future opponents (Russian and Chinese flankers and flanker derivatives) DO have infrared sensors built in.

    They’re definitely going to stack the deck. The F-35’s expected opponents all have infrared sensors, as you say. So, too, do all the current next-generation missiles.

    What seems crazy to me is that they’re promoting the F-35 as a ground support plane. Stealth is a good lead-in for a first strike against air defenses, but it’s courting disaster to have something like an F-35 trying to exist in a battlefield where there are MANPADs.

  9. Crimson Clupeidae says

    I’m pretty sure the F-35 should be properly designated the A/F-35. It was way back when, originally intended as a stealth attack aircraft to compliment the F-22s Air Superiority.

    The F-35 would probably do a decent job at first strike attack role, but it doesn’t have the heat damping that even the F-117 does (again, that aircraft should have been designated an A-117).

  10. leper says

    This article goes into some detail about how the scenario was set up and clarifies what the media/propaganda reports don’t cover. The results shouldn’t be surprising: the exercise was a softball for a flawed program and they weren’t going to be permitted to fail.

  11. John Morales says

    [OT]

    I happened to read this article: Abandoning relationship with Trump would cost tens of billions, former [Australian] Defence chief says.

    Of note:

    Speaking one month after the inauguration of US President Donald Trump, Sir Angus warned, “Going solo is not an option”.

    “The Government is committed to spending 2 per cent of gross domestic product on defence,” he said.
    “It is likely we would have to increase defence spending to about, by my estimate, 3 to 4 per cent of GDP.”

    Four per cent of the current GDP figure equates to approximately $66.6 billion.

    For reference, consider the comparative Australian and USA defence spending.

    The discrepancy is even more pronounced due to the disparity in the size of their relative economies (sorry, too lazy for a link).

    So…
    (1) Oz can’t afford to militarily spend like the USA, even if only proportionally.
    (2) Oz must appease the USA to stay within its military umbrella.

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