After years of justifying the F-35s enormous price tag with claims that it is the most advanced and capable air platform on the planet, Lockheed Martin is now reportedly pitching a new fifth generation fighter to Japan. This new jet would combine elements from both the F-35 Lighting II and the export-banned F-22 Raptor and, according to Lockheed, be “superior to both.”
Lockheed Martin’s F-35 program is widely seen as the future of U.S. military aviation. It was designed to replace a wide variety of different aircraft, originally touted as both a close air support (CAS) aircraft that could outshoot the legendary A-10 as well as an air superiority fighter that could take on the best the world had to offer, including the Russian built Su-35, forthcoming Su-57, and Chinese J-20. In reality, however, the F-35 has demonstrated competence at many of these tasks, but claims regarding the aircraft have been tempered through years of delays, setbacks, and technical issues.
In fact, the U.S. military is currently not even accepting F-35s from Lockheed Martin as a result of a pending dispute about who should bear the cost of repairing yet another nearly fleet wide issue with the platform. A problem with where panels meet the aluminum hull of the airframe has left the majority of the F-35s that have already been delivered with corrosion issues that will likely cost hundreds of millions of dollars to address. To make matters worse, the Air Force recently announced that, because of the massive cost associated with maintaining the F-35, the branch’s entire order of advanced jets may have to be reduced by as much as a third simply to be able to afford operations, and force wide, only about half of all delivered F-35s are even considered operational.
Even with so many issues associated with the $1.5 trillion dollar F-35 program, often referred to as the “most expensive weapons system ever built,” the reputation of aircraft remains it’s primary selling point. America has shared the massive cost of developing the jet with allied nations that are also receiving deliveries of their own F-35s based on the promise that it will eventually achieve full operational status and dominate the globe… that is, until now. After years touting the platform as the “best in the world,” it’s a bold move to begin advertising a “superior” aircraft based on the F-35s design to an American ally.