FighterSweep Fans, this is the question in the back of many an intelligent mind as it applies to the F-35 Lightning II: who’s right? We have the crowd eager to grab torches and pitchforks anytime the subject is brought up, largely because of the ongoing debate about the JSF’s capabilities in CAS versus those of the A-10. Here is the perspective of Director of Defense and Strategy at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute.
As well, I have had good access to the F-35 program during my time at ASPI. I have had briefings from our own Department of Defense, Lockheed Martin and discussions at the Pentagon on the subject. Most of the discussions were at the unclassified level, but I had the opportunity to discuss the modelling and simulation work that underpins the concept of operations for the F-35 with the practitioners.
My conversations with those involved in modelling work suggested that I was dealing with careful analysts who well understood the nature of their business. They could explain their assumptions and, critically, how they tested the sensitivity of their conclusions to variations of those assumptions and of input parameters.
The results of that work—which should be available to the Committee should you choose to ask for a brief—is starkly at odds with some of the material in submissions you have received.
Which brings us to the nub of the question that anyone wanting to understand the F-35 inevitable comes up against—who is right? On one hand you have a very active group of critics who have managed to get traction with the media and with elements of governments in Australia and Canada at least.
As the submissions show, their view is that this program is a fiasco of extraordinary magnitude. On the other hand, you have the acquisition organisations and air forces of some of the most professional and competent operators of combat aircraft in the world—I include in that list Australia, Canada, Japan, Israel, Singapore, the United Kingdom and the United States.
Those groups have access to classified data on the aircraft, and the partner nations also have good internal access to the program. Their collective judgement is that the F-35 is the way ahead for their air combat capability.