|The Elephant in the Room
|By Barry Manz
Let’s hear it for the federal government. With its now standard blaming, waffling, cowering, and blind obedience to ideology, the Obama administration and Congress let $85 billion in immediate cuts and hundreds of billions more over a decade take effect. A conclusion to this sorry era in our nation’s history is far from over, as the real work now begins: wrangling over the new federal budget, the true long-term effects of sequestration will be, and a lot more. However one thing is certain: The defense industry, including those like the microwave industry that rely on it, will take a beating.
Nobody doubts there is more fat in Pentagon budgets than cheap bacon, and they cannot be leaned out to the degree now required by law without goring the country’s security, reducing its technology base, or further delaying vital programs. Unfortunately, DoD hasn’t done itself any favors in its handling of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, the ever-hungry elephant in the room. DoD is staking the future of U.S. fighter aircraft on the F-35, as it is the only stealth fighter in production and will replace thousands of A-10, F-15, F-16, and F-18 fighters for the Air Force, Navy, and Marines Corps.
As the F-35 embodies massive technical feats it shouldn’t be surprising that making all of these first-of-their-kind systems work has cost more and taken longer than expected. Nevertheless, decision to build aircraft before being “fully cooked” was ill-conceived and will cost far more in retrofits than if the problems were solved during development. That would have delayed the program, adding to the growing tsunami of criticism. Creating three variants of the aircraft, one of which like the Harrier is devilishly complex, was also an “all or nothing” crap shoot. And on and on.
The F-35 program will continue, it will incur additional expense, more delays will be announced, and perhaps fewer aircraft will be built. The RF and microwave industry needs the F-35 and the cash that its EW, radar, communications, and avionics systems will bring. But it also needs the many other programs that are being jeopardized by this massive program.
Barry Manz is a contributing editor to Microwave Product Digesting can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.