Consider the following seemingly unrelated points – or maybe they are related?
- The F-35 won’t be fully combat ready for several more years, if even then. When ready, the F-35 will only be a mediocre aircraft with much of its technology obsolete or easily matched by other aircraft due to the extremely protracted develop period.
- A few lessons have been learned even by the military. The Air Force has stated publicly that they have no interest in initiating another multi-service aircraft project. The Navy has strongly suggested that an overemphasis on stealth may be inappropriate.
- The next generation fighter has been under conceptual development for a year or more.
- We just recently discussed the concept of a five year development/production cycle and found it to be achievable if certain rules were rigidly followed.
Do you see the connection and the logical conclusion?
If we should be able to develop an aircraft and have it production ready in five years and the F-35 is still five-plus years away from being combat ready, logic suggests that if we terminated the F-35 today, we could still have a combat ready, useful, next generation aircraft ready in the same time frame as the F-35 or even a bit sooner.
Of course, the key is the definition of “next generation”. If we do as we’ve been doing and try to make the next generation aircraft an anti-gravity, invisibility, laser armed, telepathic controlled fantasy wonder weapon then, no, it can’t be ready for production in five years. But, if we thoroughly understand the aircraft’s mission, narrowly focus on just that role, use only existing technology, define our requirements well, insist on no change orders, limit the aircraft to just the Navy, and manage the project as I’ve described in previous posts (see, "Five Years or You Didn't Know What You Wanted") then there’s no reason we can’t have a formidable, reasonably priced, combat ready aircraft in five years.
We can still pursue the fantasy technology but only in the R&D world, not in production.
Think about it. We could have a carrier combat aircraft that is superior to the F-35 in production in five years. The F-35C will probably not be fully combat ready in five years and, even if it is, it won’t be suited to what the Navy really needs.
“… what the Navy really needs.” That’s the next key, isn’t it? It’s clear that the Navy doesn’t even know what it needs because it hasn’t got a guiding strategy that would tell it what kind of aircraft is needed. Recognizing the Navy’s inability to define what it needs, ComNavOps has obligingly told the Navy what it needs. The Navy needs a long range air superiority fighter and a long range attack plane with the fighter being the top priority. Of course, there’s no reason the Navy can’t develop both aircraft simultaneously. We’ve done it in the past and we can do it again by following the guidelines I’ve laid out. That’s not really the point of this post, though.
The point of the post is that in the same time frame we’re looking at getting the F-35C combat ready, we can have a new and superior aircraft in production – one whose technology isn’t already obsolete after two decades of development.