Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Spain opts out. F-35 Zombie Shuffle continues.

Not happening for Spain anytime soon.
There aren't many options for STOVL fighters these days.  No options at all, in fact.  The only STOVL fighter aircraft currently in production is the Lockheed Martin F-35B Lighting II.  Its predecessor, the AV-8 Harrier, was no different.  The only other STOVL fighter to make production was the Soviet Yak-38 "Forger".

The F-35B is seen as the de facto choice for organizations operating Harriers.  It is the only fighter with STOVL abilities, enabling it to operate from smaller aircraft carriers designed primarily for helicopter operations.  This includes the Royal Navy, USMC, Indian Navy, Royal Thai Navy, Italian Navy, and Spanish Navy.

With a monopoly on making STOVL fighters, you'd think Lockheed-Martin's F-35B sales would be shoe-in.  Unlike the "A" and "C" models, there are no alternatives to the F-35B, stealthy or no.  Yet, F-35B sales are looking incredibly shaky lately.

Spanish AV-8B Harrier II.
Most recently, Spain has decided to forego the F-35B for now.  Instead, it will continue to support its AV-8B Harrier II fleet until at least 2025.  This isn't especially damning for the JSF program as a whole, as Spain had yet to sign on as a buyer or partner.  The numbers are small enough to be inconsequential as well.  Currently, the Spanish Navy operates only a single carrier, the Juan Carlo I, with a total fleet of 13 AV-8Bs.

Combine this, however, with Italy's proposed deep cuts to its purchase (45 instead of 90), and things start to look worse.  Add the fact that the U.K is only committing to 48 (instead of 138), and it starts to look like the F-35B just isn't that much in demand.

Why is the F-35B looking like a hard sell?  You'd think that a supersonic stealth fighter that can take off and land like a helicopter would be in high demand.

Maybe it's because the F-35B currently costs a quarter of a billion dollars each.

Perhaps it is because it needs specially prepared landing areas.

There's always the possibility that operating STOVL fighters from lightly defended forward operating bases makes them too tempting a target.

Whatever the reasons, Lockheed-Martin's case for "up to 5000 sales" just got a little weaker.

8 comments:

  1. Apart from being supersonic and crammed with gadgets that still need to prove their reliability, is the F-35b really so much better than the Harrier ?

    Doug, could you please write us a comparison test between the good old Harrier and the ugly lame duck ?

    BTW I really liked your rant.

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  2. The Brits were fools to give up their Harriers so soon. With the QE carrier coming operational in a couple years they would have had an air fleet for the carrier. Instead they are stuck now with the F-35B and have no options, and can't afford the numbers required due to the rediculous cost of the plane.

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  3. Indeed, Canuck, even Tarzan could have told it to the Brits :
    "Don't let go of your liana until you get hold of the next one."

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  4. It depends on which Brits you are referring to. If we were talking about the RAF then we could say that they were actually very smart, since they have been trying for a long time now to kill the Royal Navy's fixed-wing aviation. In the 1960s they were against the CVA-01 and more recently they offered to cut Joint Force Harrier.

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  5. I too like the rant Doug, and echo the comparison Harrier vs ugly request.

    Recently I read from a link on this site 'The Comanche and the Albatross' by Col Pietrucha USAF. That did it for me-a cogent argument that this pooch is going to bankrupt all kinds of other worthy USAF programs, at the same time not delivering on promises made.

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  6. Doug are you really so thick as to not realise that Spain has never been part of the F-35 program? Or is it that you are so desperate for any apparent anti-F-35 news that you will post anything regardless of how thin he connection?

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  7. At first sight it might smack of F-35 bashing, SMithy, but Doug's information is important. Spain, an obvious prospect who still uses Harriers, has clearly stated it wouldn't buy the F-35B in the near future.
    One cannot ignore that countries who are currently using the Harrier are getting cold feet with the cost and delays of the F-35.
    Which country can afford a $250,000,000 plane ? And that's without the cost of actually using it.

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  8. I will ask you nicely to please be respectful, and I will give you a respectful answer.

    As I mentioned in the first paragraph: "Spain had yet to sign on as a buyer or partner. The numbers are small enough to be inconsequential as well."



    A dozen or so airframes certainly isn't going to make or break the JSF program. What this is, however, is another sign pointing towards lower than projected F-35 sales. Given as how the JSF was projected to replace every F-16, F-18, A-10, and AV-8 on a 1:1 basis, news like makes that projection optimistic to say the least.


    As for being "desperate for any apparent anti-F35 news"... I will GLADLY post positive JSF news if it ever comes. No, that doesn't include the slow trickle of press releases heralding successful flight tests that should have been completed years ago.

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