We swear the draft of this article about the F-35 was already well in progress before Trump tweeted about the program’s cost overruns.
The synergy between Pragmatically Distributed’ views and Trump’s continues. We do not attempt an explanation. Instead we are content to welcome whatever alignment of the space-time continuum triggered by the Singularity, in its infinite wisdom, has brought about this remarkable phenomena. And we invite the reader to happily meditate, as we meditate, on the warm glow Trump’s dark energy has brought over the Galaxy.
This absurd superstition noted, we speculate further – if it is the will of the Singularity that Trump, in accordance with our wishes, cancel or cut back on the F-35 – whether Trump’s terrible will-to-power can now align with our favored replacement, the F-23?
To get from the F-35 to the F-23 two questions must be answered: First, how to cancel it; second, replace it with what kind of F-23?
Two obstacles stand in the way of the F-35’s cancellation. First is the broad support it has in Congress thanks to the jobs depending on its production. The second are the military assumptions that will have to be adjusted if it is ended. In such an event the military would need a short and medium term plan to live without the F-35 over the decade or more it will take before F-23s are ready for service.
The solution to the first and second problems is to build 1,000 F-22s with much of the funds now allotted for the F-35. The restart of the F-22 program will provide a substitute for the jobs and political influence brought by the F-35, and will smooth the transition period for the military.
As a complement to this short and medium term stopgap, existing F-16s, F-18s would continue in their multi-role duties. With a thousand F-22s in America’s arsenal there will barely be any high value missions left for F-16s and F-18s during the development of the F-23 . Whatever missions will be assigned to those aging fighters will be limited primarily to air-ground support missions.
This brings us to the long term military objective of the F-23. With the original role of the F-23 as a tactical air strike fighter filled by the F-22, our F-23 would be free to be redesigned as a 5th generation fighter-bomber replacement for the F-16 and F-18.
To demonstrate some of the engineering advantages of starting afresh with the old Black Widow prototype, consider the frame of the F-23. It was made svelte to support stealth characteristics. Considering the burden of the most complex missions will fall to the F-22 for many decades, the F-23’s stealth technology could be de-emphasized in favor of a more robust frame better suited to air-ground support roles. Reduced advanced stealth characteristics will bring reduced costs. They will also make the basic model easier to customize for specialized requirements of the Army, Navy, and Airforce, and permit less advanced variants to be produced for allied nations.
If the Marines insist on a fighter with vertical landing abilities – a requirement much less important to the three main branches of the Armed Forces and which is the requirement that has more than any other bogged down the whole program – the production of only the Marine variants of the F-35 can remain online.
Do we need the F-23? We don’t know, and because we don’t we conclude America should build it anyway based on this (modified) rule of war – it is better to have a highly advanced military and not need it than need a highly advanced military and not have it.