Monday, April 23, 2018
Opinion

Daniel Ruth: The F-35 is a turkey in the air, when it actually gets there

If this had been a slightly addled elderly man at the end of the bar deep into his third martini pontificating about America’s latest newfangled secret weapon — an invisible jet fighter instilling fear into our evildoing enemies — well, you could simply buy him another round and sit back to enjoy the absurdity of it all.

Alas, however, this was President Donald Trump a few days ago telling a captive audience of U.S. Coast Guardsmen: "Do you like the F-35? I said how does it do in fights, and how do they do in fights with the F-35? He said they do very well, you can’t see it. Literally you can’t see. It’s hard to fight a plane you can’t see, right?"

Just who was telling the president of the country that the armed forces were equipped with an invisible plane isn’t entirely clear. Perhaps the leader of the Free World had just heard about how Wonder Woman can zip about in her transparent flying machine.

Indeed Trump went on to brag, "How good is it? Well it wins every time because the enemy cannot see it, even if it is right next to it, it can’t see it. I said that helps, that’s a good thing."

Yes, very helpful.

Stretching the president’s credulity to the extreme edges of The Twilight Zone, you could say he was correct in asserting the F-35 is indeed capable of being unseen to the naked eye, since it has never so much as cast a condescending sneer in the general direction of any enemy, not even those malcontents causing mischief in Freedonia.

Nearly 20 years in development, the F-35 has managed to carpet-bomb the federal budget. To date, the Pentagon’s answer to the Yugo of weapons systems has cost at least $406 billion — and growing. The Government Accountability Office estimates the F-35 will cost about $1.4 trillion over the life of the program. And let’s face it, at the Defense Department boondoggles like the F-35 are immortal.

The F-35 has never lost a fight, because it’s never been in a fight, unless you count the mock dogfights the plane has had and lost with the F-16, the very aircraft it is supposed to replace.

Or perhaps think of the F-35 as the world’s most sophisticated conscientious objector.

A single copy of a F-35 costs about $100 million. However, during its very long, plagued development the aircraft’s much-vaunted $400,000 pilot’s helmet was discovered to be unable to discern friend from foe, which might seem to be sort of important.

Last year, the Pentagon announced the F-35 had finally reached "initial operational capability," which would seem to be general-speak for the F-35 is now able to confront foes by asking if they have Prince Albert in a can.

But perhaps the most damning indictment of the F-35 was the acknowledgement by the Pentagon that Chinese hackers may have compromised some 8 million lines of the plane’s software codes.

Nearly 20 years. Some $406 million. Another $1.4 trillion yet to go. And at the end of the day, it is conceivable the F-35 could be defeated, not in an aerial confrontation with another fighter jet, but by a 14-year-old sitting with his laptop in Beijing.

Still, production of the F-35 continues unabated, largely because its lucrative Defense Department costs have been spread out over at least 45 states employing about 133,000 people. According to the American Conservative, in Florida alone it is estimated the F-35, which has yet to even make an obscene hand gesture aimed at an adversary, accounts for about 18,000 jobs across some 98 suppliers generating $2 billion in economic impact — all in the service of building the Rube Goldberg machine of weapons. Who would want to kill such a golden albatross? This is a bipartisan embarrassment. Yet the Trump administration wants to slash food stamp programs?

More vexing is that the commander in chief appears to be oblivious about the F-35’s complete lack of combat history, or to even grasp the fact it is hardly invisible. It’s entirely possible a Coast Guard boatswain’s mate trapped in the president’s preening photo-op knows more about the F-35’s shortcomings than the very man who has the ultimate power to send him or her into harm’s way.

But that hasn’t prevented Trump from waxing poetic about the F-35.

What’s next? The commander in chief singing the praises of the Marine Corps’ Jedi warrior light sabers? They’re fabulous, you know.

Comments
Editorial: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

Editorial: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

Not too many people took then-candidate Donald Trump seriously when he famously campaigned to "drain the swamp" as president. But that shouldn’t give this administration a free pass to excuse the behavior of Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Env...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Allegiant Air’s safety record remains troubling, and the Federal Aviation Administration’s reluctance to talk about it is no more encouraging. Those are the key takeaways from a 60 Minutes report on the low-cost carrier’s high rate of mid-flight brea...
Published: 04/21/18

Editorial: Women’s work undervalued in bay area

Even a strong economy and low unemployment cannot overcome the persistent pay gap affecting full-time working women in Florida. A new report shows women in Florida earned 12.5 percent less on average than their male counterparts, and the disparities ...
Published: 04/21/18

Editorial: A missed chance for open primary elections

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission did a lot of things wrong this week by combining unrelated or unpalatable provisions into single amendments that will appear on the November ballot. It also wasted an opportunity to do one thing right. The...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

For all the symbolism, Raul Castro’s handoff of the Cuban presidency this week amounts to less than meets the eye even if his handpicked successor, the Communist Party functionary Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez, is the first person not named Castro to le...
Published: 04/20/18
Editorial: When they visit Nature’s Classroom, kids are right where they belong

Editorial: When they visit Nature’s Classroom, kids are right where they belong

The Hillsborough school district planted a fruitful seed with the opening of Nature’s Classroom five decades ago on the cypress-lined banks of the Hillsborough River northeast of Tampa. • The lessons taught there to some 17,000 sixth graders each yea...
Published: 04/20/18

Editorial: Equality pays off on Southwest Flight 1380

The passengers of Southwest Flight 1380 can be thankful that, 33 years ago, the U.S. Navy took the lead on equal opportunity.Capt. Tammie Jo Shults was piloting the flight from New York to Dallas on Tuesday when an engine exploded, blowing out a wind...
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/20/18
Editorial: Why single-member districts would be bad for Hillsborough commission

Editorial: Why single-member districts would be bad for Hillsborough commission

Anyone looking to make Hillsborough County government bigger, costlier, more dysfunctional and less of a regional force should love the idea that Commissioner Sandy Murman rolled out this week. She proposes enlarging the seven-member board to nine, e...
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/20/18
Editorial: Improving foster care in Hillsborough

Editorial: Improving foster care in Hillsborough

A new foster care provider in Hillsborough County is poised to take over operations in May, only months after its predecessor was fired for what was alleged to be a pattern of failing to supervise at-risk children in its care. Many of the case manage...
Published: 04/18/18

Another voice: Back to postal reform

President Donald Trump is angry at Amazon for, in his tweeted words, "costing the United States Post Office massive amounts of money for being their Delivery Boy." Yet in more recent days, Trump has at least channeled his feelings in what could prove...
Published: 04/17/18
Updated: 04/18/18