JSF Jumping, but How High?

I realize this video is making the rounds, but there's some context to it worth discussing.

The F-35B STOVL test plane down at Pax has been busy since the new year, spooling up its lift fan and thrusting its  nozzle in near-hover tests that engage the one of the most complex propulsion systems since the Yak-38.

We wish Lockheed Martin the best of luck in its tests, but as they go on, Defense Tech and it's sister sites are starting to wonder if all this effort will be worth it. In a brilliant stroke, the Marine Corps maneuvered to get the B-version of the Lightning tested before the C model. In their quest for an "all STOVL force," the Corps insists it needs the jump jet F-35. We understand the rational in the abstract, but practically, it makes no sense and sucks resources away from other efforts that could pay off much bigger.

And, ironically, the Navy was smart to shoe horn in their Super Hornet as a hedge against delays in the JSF program back in 1999. And now, as our boys over at DoD Buzz report, the Navy is getting soft on the carrier Lightning as the technical delays mount and the costs soar.

“I’m growing more and more convinced that the Navy variant of the F-​​35 might not be worth buying. The program is sliding further and further to the right, as costs increase. When we have an 80 percent solution in active production, and significantly cheaper, the F-​​35C looks like a great candidate for cancellation,” said one congressional aide. “Gates has talked about choosing 75 percent solutions over expensive ‘exquisite’ systems and this is a perfect candidate.”
 As big a fan as we are of the MV-22, the analogy of an expensive, technically complex experiment being used for run-of-the mill operations has merit and can be transferred to the JSF as well. Why not replace Harriers with Super Hornets? Really, the Corps rarely operates its jets in true STOVL mode except for flights off an amphib. But that lack of jet capability can be worked around for ARGs (or whatever they're called now).

Anyway, as the F-35B program progresses and the money people start to take notice of its complexity and cost, there's going to be a fierce debate over whether giving the Corps its hovering toy is worth it. The Navy might have to abandon its F-35C ambitions (to the extent that they actually wantedthat version of the Lightning) and go straight to the UCAS...?

PS- Defense Tech and Military.com are closely following the terrible events surrounding the 7.0 Mag earth quake in Haiti. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the people of that impoverished neighbor. If you would like to help, officials are recommending contacting the Red Cross for donations.

-- Christian

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