The Washington Post and the New York Times recently published a story that “The Pentagon and Lockheed-Martin have recently come to an agreement for the purchase of a batch of F-35s for the Air Force…”
The story did not explain what makes up a “batch” of airplanes but it did mention that it would cost us “about $4 billion.” “Batch” is another Pentagonese invention, like “collateral damage” and other Orwellian expressions for which the military is so justly infamous.
The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter — Air Force version — was originally estimated to cost $90 million. The generals and Lockheed gave it such a build-up that the only thing the F-35 would not do is cure the common cold. That $90 million did not include avionics, weapons, training of pilots and ground crews, spare parts, and all the “et ceteras” that accompany Pentagon purchases.
The Navy and Marine Corps versions of the F-35 have had so many problems (e.g. the tail hook refuses to catch the cable of the carriers) that they are decades (and billions in more research) from ever being operable.
The Air Force version, however, is operational, sort of, kinda, on a very limited basis. Although this version (the cheaper of the three) already costs $260 million per fully equipped plane, it has been grounded because it tends to kill the pilots. Rather than loading heavy oxygen bottles for the pilots, the F-35 is designed to produce oxygen via a chemical reaction. Unfortunately, the system does not work: so many pilots have crashed that some are now refusing to fly the thing. The Pentagon’s solution, as usual, is to offer a few hundred millions more to the contractor so he can fix his own mistakes.
Nevertheless, the Air Force is buying an unspecified “batch” of planes that cannot fly and that we cannot afford. In spite of this, Congressman McClintock wants to cut budgets for schools, seniors and medical research and shovel the savings into the bottomless pit that is the Pentagon. Ain’t this a great country, or what?