The USAF is not able to negotiate Lot-9 LRIP and so, despite an ILLEGAL and highly dubious IOC declaration, the service is unable to definitively give pricing or rate data on FRP and so no member of the JSF ‘buyers club’ wants to jump into a Block Buy that gets them thoroughly hosed instead of protected by their early investments.
What the USAF needs to admit is that:
- They will never get 1,763 jets. Nor even half that number. With 42,300 dollar per flight hour current CPFH and a jet which is NOT going to go below 110 million each, the need for this system as an ISR enabler for other fighters just isn’t there in a majority of theaters where either the target sets are too far away for G4 jets to reach, inside too heavily protected A2AD sanctuaries to be survivable or _simply not necessary_ as with the majority of low rent dictators (Libya) and redneck rebels (AfG) we now face. The Lightning is too expensive to a magazine full of silver bullets.
2. If USAF OOB collapses towards 800 aircraft with 300 reserve F-16s (ASA and Bomb Truck after Stealth takedown of IADS) and 500 F-35s with a collapsing dollar and much reduced overseas commitments in the face of Trump austerity measures as an attempt to reindustrialize; the very existence of LM as one of two Aerospace Defenses Contractors is going to DEPEND on massive new builds, not haphazard SLEP/CAPES/V type programs. As such, ‘block buys’ will have to be two-tier with 150 F-16s in a multi-year procurement for 50 million each acting as financial guarantor for 75 F-35s at 130 or 150 million (which they will go to), until we have force fill with a fleet of jets that have equal systems status (SABR/MADL), combat radius (CFT) and most importantly: Fatigue Life. If not the F-16, then it will have to be UAS and the service culture will not support ‘automation’ of a union jobs environment.
Beltway Bandits like Mike O’Hanlon have been making this case since 1999, along with the far more serious ending of the F-22 program. We need to look towards an era where IADS are taken out by missiles. ISR is largely expendable (SSL, hunting weapons) and the residual OBAS/CAS missions are fulfilled by persistent platforms whose primary utility is one of preemption of a fight using ground force organic fires rather than strike warfare orientated.