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Last Updated: Mon Jan 27 11:18:09 UTC 2014

F-35 JSF and the SecDef's Nightmare

Air Power Australia - Australia's Independent Defence Think Tank

Air Power Australia NOTAM

   13th November, 2009

Kris Kafka,
Guest Contributor

Contacts: Peter Goon
Carlo Kopp

Mob: 0419-806-476 Mob: 0437-478-224

The opening line of Franz Kafka’s novella, ‘The Metamorphosis’, translated to English is:

“When Gregor Samsa woke up one morning from unsettling dreams, he found himself changed in his bed into a monstrous vermin.”

And so it goes with the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

This vain attempt to produce a world-class monopoly air combat fighter is becoming a nightmare for the Western world.  Development time is dilating to chasm-like proportions.  Potential enemies are getting a measure of the beast of ‘stealth’, and opposing weapons systems’ capabilities are developing at a pace that will short circuit the Lightning II before it becomes operational. Worst of all, costs are increasing, devouring funds that could and should be applied to more effective defence programs.

In a truly Kafkaesque move, the Administration has put a stake through the heart of America’s only operationally competitive aircraft, the F-22A Raptor. The Great American Eagle lies mortally wounded, and will certainly die unless those, who know it needs brave and capable warriors to protect a Nation, take action to rescue it from this deadly environment.

In this Kafkaesque world, picture this: 

The Secretary Of Defense has this nightmare.

There is a war in the East China Sea in 2020 – just a year or so after the F-35 becomes operational with the USAF, USN and USMC.  Surprise attacks with medium-range ballistic missiles swarm a Carrier Battle Group (CBG) and several ships are sunk.  Massed air attacks are flown against Taiwan and American bases including Kadena AFB, Okinawa and Anderson AFB, Guam.  Many aircraft are destroyed in the open on these bases – there are no hardened structures to protect aircraft.  Those few aircraft that struggle into the air, as in Pearl Harbour, 1941, are annihilated by overwhelming forces.

A week later, the remaining F-35s are redeployed from the US mainland, but are overwhelmed by long-range air combat aircraft, and many are lost as they ditch, fuel exhausted after their supporting tankers are blown from the sky. America, sensing that it has no answers to this dominance of the air, sea and space, withdraws from the Pacific to lick its wounds.

His nightmare makes a schizoid to Wall Street, where the plunge in stock values makes the Global Financial Crisis look like a minor correction.  Some canny investors move their funds and the Shanghai and Hang Seng indices rise by 50 percent in a week.  Those slower off the mark are ruined, and in a ghastly replay of the Great Depression of the 1930’s and events more recent, many bodies tumble slowly off tall buildings.

He wakes in a cold sweat. “Is this nightmare a portent of American loss of power and influence?” he shudders.

Next morning, he assembles his Chiefs of Staff, and still shaken, describes the nightmare.  “Have you done the assessments of the 2020 military capabilities in the Pacific?” he demands. The Chiefs glance at each other, wondering who will be the first to speak. They look pointedly at the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who clears his throat nervously, wondering if what he must say will be his last statement in his illustrious appointment.  

Well Mr Secretary,” he opens cautiously, “firstly, let me say, such studies are very sensitive, time consuming and expensive to conduct.  So, since the high operational tempo days of the Iraq and Afghanistan offensives, and in more recent times when there has been so much pressure on the Defense budget, there have been a number of activities that have been, well, err – deferred.  As you know, this has been one of those activities!

The Secretary’s pallor changes from white to red. In a rare departure from his normally genial manner, he bangs his fist on the table. “Get me the results – and fast. Gentlemen, you have a week from this moment”.

Exactly a week later, the even more nervous Chiefs assemble. The Secretary enters the room, sits down, and commands: “Well?”  The still standing Chiefs motion to a Colonel who starts the PowerPoint brief. The opening slide is a Satellite Toolkit video of massed missiles descending on a CVBG.  Many warheads are destroyed, but some get through and the ship icons on the screen start to burn and sink.  The focus changes to Taiwan where F-16 aircraft scrambling into the sky are destroyed by mainland-based SAMs. The deployed Raptors make a good account of themselves, but there are too few to make a difference. More burning aircraft images are shown at Kadena and Anderson AFBs. But the most grievous damage is to the F-35 JSFs, which are gunned down by Sukhoi fighters like flocks of pigeons in an pest eradication program.

Is this reasonable and representative”, asks the Secretary, now in a much humbler voice.

Yes, Mr Secretary” answers the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Do you have a plan to recover from this mess?” asks the Secretary.

 “We do,” replies the Chairman firmly, and hands the Secretary a letter to the President and Commander in Chief, advising him of the assessment, and a plan on what it will take to turn the tide.

Flanked by the other Service Chiefs, the Chairman takes a more forthright stance and says, “To enable our people to make this plan work, we suggest you tender this to the Commander in Chief, as well, Mr Secretary”, handing him the draft of a letter from the Secretary to the President, resigning from the Office of Secretary of Defense. “And, Mr Secretary, our resignations will be on your desk within the hour.

Article Two of the United States Constitution
Clause 1: Command of military; Opinions of cabinet secretaries; Pardons
The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States; he may require the Opinion, in writing, of the principal Officer in each of the executive Departments, upon any subject relating to the Duties of their respective Offices.

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