From the start, the F-35 was a testosterone fuelled dream. Jonathan Manthorpe writes:
The F-35 concept was born of fantasy fertilized by hubris. The idea was to design and build a single plane that could perform a multitude of air warfare tasks, and which also would incorporate all the technological wizardry of stealth, sensor fusion and manoeuvrability. The F-35 was intended to be an aerial combat fighter, equally at home on land or aircraft carrier bases, also capable of performing the very different role of close air support for ground troops. And there are to be three versions: one for the Navy, a conventional Air Force model and a short takeoff and landing version for the Marine Corps.
To cover the costs, the United States assumed that its NATO partners would buy into the dream. However, things have not worked out that way. Canada has put a hold on its purchase of the jet. So have a host of other NATO countries:
While Canada has put the purchase of the F-35s on hold pending reports from a National Fighter Procurement Secretariat, Italy and the Netherlands already have announced sharp cutbacks in the number of the planes they plan to buy. Denmark is holding a competition that will test the F-35 against other fighters, such as Boeing’s F/A-18 Super Hornet. Canada may well take the same route.
The U.K., Norway, Turkey and Israel also are tempering their initial enthusiasm for the F-35 project and have cut back on the numbers they planned to order a decade ago.
And the cost of the jets keeps rising:
When the programme was started in 2001, the Pentagon signed on for 2,852 planes at a cost of $233 billion. But as design problems mounted and costly delays continued, the Pentagon reduced its order by 409 fighters. Just to hold the lifetime cost of the programme to the gargantuan $1.5 trillion now forecast, 3,000 of the F-35s will have to be built and sold.
The United States may fly the F-35. But the country's deficit will rise. And NATO countries do not wish to follow the American model.