Just read an interesting article Aviation Week detailing how the sharks are trying, at least, to circle the troubled F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter program. In it, Bill Sweetman, (yes, the one who has a rocky relationship with the F-35), points out that F-35 competitors are now publicly saying they may have an opportunity to compete with the jet.
With the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program likely to be hit by further delays on top of the 13-month slip in development announced in February, competitors are beginning to see hope for the future despite tight budgets worldwide. The JSF program office canceled an appearance at Defense IQ’s October fighter conference here. People talking about other programs, though, were no longer shy about benchmarking their favorite jets against the ambitious U.S.-led project, now five years behind its original schedule with a sixth in the offing.The piece reminded me of a conversation I had with Chris Chadwick, president of Boeing Military Aircraft, just before Thanksgiving. He said that Boeing is "quietly letting JSF partners know" about the capabilities of the Chicago company's most modern fighters such as the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and the F-15SE Silent Eagle.
He went on to say that his Super Hornet already has a lot of the capabilities that the F-35 will have in its Block III software configuration. He didn't elaborate on those capabilities.
Still, he insisted that he did not want to ge into a head-to-head competition with the F-35; which, troubles aside, is still a much more modern jet that even the Super Hornet.
In the end, I have a feeling the F-35 will be ok. It's more modern than existing jets and if everyone stays with the program, the program should (emphasis on should) get costs down to manageable levels. The question is; do JSF partner nations have enough patience in a time of belt tightening to wait out the program's current problems? If not, it's in real trouble.
Here's the whole AvWeek article.