Will we see thousands, as planned, or only a handful more?
Obama's win may very well spell the end of this aircraft. The sequestration budget cuts, scheduled to happen on Jan. 2 by law, IF Obama and Republicans in Congress can't figure out how to cut $1.2 trillion out of the budget before the end of the year, will hit the Pentagon hardest of all. Procurement funds are likely to dry up to nothing. The F-35 is a very high dollar program that is in the early stages of production, and so would make a choice, juicy target for Obama to slash.
Even if the unthinkable happens and an agreement is reached to avert the sequestration cuts, the F-35 is still a prime target for Obama. Democrats have the Defense Department in their sights, and want to castrate our ability to defend ourselves. The huge amount of money that will need to be invested in procurement of this aircraft for service in the Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps in numbers great enough to replace the F-16, legacy F-18, and Harrier aircraft that are reaching the end of their service lives make the program a prime target. At around $100 million apiece, Democrats are salivating at the money they can take from this program and spend elsewhere.
Cancellation of the program would cause tens of thousands of defense workers to lose their jobs. In a twist of irony, many of those workers are unionized, and voted for Obama. It would hit Texas very hard, since large portions of the aircraft are built here, and it is assembled and tested here. Unfortunately for Texas, our clout in Washington is very small these days, so we don't have a lot of political capital to fight with.
The photos are of F-35A 10-5011, on a test flight out of the Lockheed-Martin factory in Ft. Worth. It is destined for delivery to the 53WG, 422TES, for operational test and evaluation use ('OT' tail code). Photos by yours truly.
Update, Dec. 7 - Yesterday, the Canadian Government decided to cancel its partcipation in the F-35 program. The reason cited was that misleading cost figures were used when the Canadians originally decided to procure the aircraft for their Air Forces. The Canadians will now look at existing fighter aircraft to fill the requirement to replace their fleet of aging F-18A/B Hornets.
This decision, along with the apparent cancellation from the Dutch government (also due to cost) will drive the per aircraft cost for the remaining countries up significantly.
The F-35 just became an even bigger cancellation target for the Obama Administration.
This photo is of F-35C CF-05, the fifth Navy carrier based version of the Lightning II. I shot this as it was landing after its first flight, November 30, 2012, at the L-M factory at NAS Ft. Worth.
F-35B 168721, VMFA-121, on a pre-delivery test flight at NAS Ft. Worth on 1/11/13. This aircraft will the the third delivered to the first operational Marine Lightning squadron, based at MCAS Yuma, AZ.