Murphy's Law: Pilots Shot Down By F-35s


April 24, 2010:  Denmark has stopped training new jet fighter pilots. Twelve trainees, who were about to go to the United States, where Danish fighter pilots are trained by the U.S. Air Force, are being assigned to other jobs. This came about because Denmark recently decided to cut its force of jet fighters from 48 F-16s, to 30. The remaining F-16s will be refurbished so that they can continue to operate for the rest of the decade. Denmark plans to eventually replace their F-16s with F-35s. Because the F-35 is a much more capable aircraft, and Denmark has so few potential aggressors in the neighborhood, there will be fewer F-35s bought to replace the F-16 force. While the F-35 costs more than the F-16, having fewer of them also saves money on pilots. A fighter pilot takes five years, and several million dollars, to train.

The 27 ton F-35 is armed with an internal 25mm cannon and four internal air-to-air missiles (or two missiles and two smart bombs). Plus four external smart bombs and two missiles. All sensors are carried internally, and max weapon load is 6.8 tons. The aircraft is very stealthy when just carrying internal weapons.

Development costs for the new U.S. F-35 fighter-bomber has grown by a third, to $60 billion, over the last few years. That means the average development cost of the estimated 5,000 F-35s to be built, will be about $12 million each. The additional development costs are accompanied by additional delays before the aircraft enters service. Production costs will average about $84 million. With a share of development costs, that makes the per aircraft cost $96 million. This cost estimate continues to rise, and is expected to eventually exceed $130 million per aircraft.

Like the F-22 fighter, the F-35 is stealthy, and is stuffed with lots of new technology. Most (about 60 percent) of the F-35s built will be used by foreign nations. The rising cost of the F-35 brings with it reluctance to buy as many aircraft currently planned. The success of smart bombs in Iraq and Afghanistan has also made it clear that fewer aircraft will be needed in the future. In any event, it's likely that F-35s will end up costing more than twice as much as originally estimated.





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