With all the political animosity going on against Boeing, one might think that Lockheed-Martin's F-35 has returned to its rightful place as the likely CF-18 replacement.

Time, and the passage of it, works out in favor of the F-35 in Canada.  It has now been over three years since the Liberal Government's rise to power on the promise to scrap the F-35 purchase.  During that time, the JSF program has hit milestones and began to enter service with the US military.  Costs have come down.  Most important of all, its chief sales rival has seen a catastrophic fall from grace.  Given all this, it would seem the F-35 could very well make a Canadian comeback.

Well...  Not so fast.

In the past, two of the JSF's most worrying issues have been its costs and its mission readiness.  Recent reports do little dissuade these fears.

While increasing the F-35's production rate has resulted in a decrease in production cost, its sustainment cost is still outrageously high.  So high, in fact, that the USAF has threatened to cut its future orders until Lockheed Martin is able to reduce the F-35's cost per flight hour (estimated at $50,000/hr).

Obviously, if the JSF is too costly for the USAF, it is certainly to costly for the cash-strapped RCAF.

Perhaps more worrisome is the fact that the F-35 is still woefully unready for combat.  While the USAF and USMC may be willing to declare the aircraft operational, it will likely be some time before the the fighter is actually put in any sort of harm's way.  Despite more than a decade of flight testing, the JSF is still riddled with bugs and falling short of its planned capability.

Concerns about the F-35's reliability are not helped by the fact that the U.S. Department of Defense has begun to refuse new deliveries of the aircraft.  This stems from a dispute last year which saw F-35's delivered without proper rust-proofing.  A fix has been devised, but neither side is willing to pay for the expensive retrofits.

Once again, this proves that the true cost of the F-35 is very much unknown.  In its rush to get the JSF into full-rate production, Lockheed Martin and the Joint Program Office have scores of fighter jets that each require tens-of-millions worth of retrofits.

The JSF program is quickly approaching 300 aircraft...  And they still lack the reliability and the affordability required of them.

The F-35 is the "MAX POWER" of fighter jets.


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