As we know, the US Air Force is more and more reluctant towards the plan which initially planned to acquire more than 1700 F35As to replace its fleet of F16s, A10s and part of its F15s. In question, theannual maintenance costs for each device, which she estimates in a report obtained from the AirForceMag.com website, to $ 36.000 per unit per year in 2036, where it was targeting, in 2012, a cost of $ 4,1 million per unit, an increase of 90%. But the pressure suffered by General Brown, the USAF Chief of Staff, after he raised the hypothesis of develop a new less expensive and more reliable aircraft to replace its F16 fleet, invited the latter to act with more caution and circumspection in the face of this program which employs more than 250.000 Americans spread across 48 of the 50 American states, and which is particularly present in the most politically powerful states, such as California, the United States. Texas or Florida.
In fact, the US Air Force now seems to have opted for a more indirect strategy, to reduce the budgetary pressure imposed on it by this program, without however appearing to be the gravedigger of this “Trillion Program”. This is the reason why, as part of the preparation of the provisional budgets for 2022 to 2026, the US Air Force would have opted for a 10% drop in annual F35A orders, from 48 aircraft to only 43. In the same time, she seems to wish rely on a number of political leaders, Democrats and Republicans alike, increasingly wary of Lockheed-Martin's apparatus, in order to prevent Congress from increasing the number of apparatuses funded each year. Indeed, since 2012, the USAF requested each year a budget line to acquire 48 new F35A, but Congress "granted" an extension of 12 aircraft, or 60 F35A delivered. But this budgetary “extension” was done with an established overall budget, and therefore to the detriment of other programs particularly in the field of R&D.
Therefore, rather than attempting to go against the tide and become a target for the American industrial lobbies, General Brown, and obviously an overwhelming majority of the Pentagon, it seems. opted for a more indirect strategy. In fact, by reducing the volume of devices ordered annually by 10%, based on the excess of devices in the fleet due to successive “nudges” from Congress, and by arguing over the maintenance prices at this point excessive that they now threaten the sustainability of the military tool that the US Air Force represents, they gradually distill a powerful message in the heart of the executive but also of the American legislature, so as to gradually erode the firm Congress's support for this program which, obviously, is now becoming a major handicap for American military leaders.
The side step is low enough and justified by the excess of in-line devices, not to be qualified as a sling. But at the same time, it is significant enough to alter the false image of the ultimate apparatus which has heavily permeated the imaginations of Americans, including its leaders and political representatives, but also vis-à-vis its people. allies, who until today, for the most part, only swear by the Lockheed-Martin plane. However, the criteria which today handicap the US Air Force, and in particular the very excessive maintenance costs and the too low operational availability of the F35A, affect, or will affect, in the same way the 13 or so allied air forces which commanded. the aircraft.
It remains to be seen how the American Congress will react to these developments, knowing that the F35 program, while it is far from having achieved its operational and budgetary objectives, has perfectly fulfilled its political specifications, so as to obtain the strongest possible representativeness in the House of Representatives. In this context, the competitions for the replacement of the Finnish and Swiss F / A 18s will be observed with great attention. Indeed, these two competitions are the first which do not give the F35A as winner by anticipation. On the contrary, Swiss media, for example, seem to think that Bern's decision will be between the German Typhoon and the French Rafale. The position of the F35A in Finland is not much better, with a media preference which fell on the JAS 39 E / F Gripen of the Swedish neighbor. A decision by either of these countries in favor of a European aircraft, or Boeing's F / A 18 E / F Super Hornet, would constitute a severe dent in the image of absolute superiority that likes to adorn itself. the F35, and could in fact serve the interests of the US Air Force in this speckled showdown which is now taking place in Washington.