This chart, from a Government Accountability Office report released Thursday, shows how much money we will be spending over the next quarter-century on the Pentagon’s biggest procurement program ever: the F-35 fighter. Check it out: an average of more than $10 billion a year, as far as the eye can see, when our existing F-15s, F-16s and F-18s are overwhelmingly better — in both quality and quantity — than anything else out there.
The Air Force, Marines and Navy each get a chunk of this $300 billion-plus program (that’s the only way to keep them from fighting; three little brothers with only one or two toys is a recipe for disaster). Recently, in the uber-serious Armed Forces Journal, a former Pentagon official and retired Army officer (no surprise — he served in the only service not getting F-35s), Joseph Collins, penned a Message to the Next SecDef, where he raised a couple of fair questions:
In this era of jointness, why do we need three tactical air forces? Certain systems, trucks and lift helicopters, for example, need to be in every service, but when this notion extends to stealth fighter aircraft, it can break the bank. Today, the “triplication” of fighter aircraft creates opportunities and synergies, but when you look at putting a different version of the expensive F-35 in each of three services, you have to wonder: Are three tactical air forces affordable? Are they necessary?