Fighter Disasters

The F-35 is, imho, a disaster. There are CRS reports (available at on the schedule and cost overruns, lists of specific problems, et cetera. For a scathing article on this, see this one by the respected business columnist David Olive.

Every politician and armed forces official that speaks of this acts as if one of a number of things were true:

  • The problems could not have been anticipated
  • This is a unique problem due to the advanced nature of the airplane
  • Everything will work out in the end, with a safe and effective airplane

I beg to differ. There was another fighter aircraft, also made by Lockheed, called the F-104. The German fighter pilot ace Erich Hartmann called this plane the Witwenmacher, which means widow-maker. (I am aware of this because of an excellent story by Eusebius Clay, but that’s a topic for a later post.)

When an F-100 Super Sabre had 16.25 failures per 100,000 hours, and the Convair F102 Dagger was at 13.69, the F-104 had the number of 30.63 failures – per 100,000 operating hours. Failure means crash.

In addition, the F-104 had some interesting scandals surrounding it as well, with claims of bribes offered to foreign influencers to buy this plane. There is a fine summary of this in Wikipedia here.

My point here: US fighter aircraft are not always a good deal (otherwise, why bribes, in the F104 case, eh?). and, US fighter aircraft are not always safe and effective.

I will end with a dumb question: For whom will the F-35 be a disaster? Potential candidates include: armed forces leaders of countries like Canada, who have recommended purchasing the plane; political leaders of countries in the same boat (craft, actually, {8;^<}); and let us not forget the end users: our brave air force pilots. Let’s not foist another Witwenmacher onto them. Or are we doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past, because our military and political leaders are not willing to learn the clear lessons of history? It is a dumb question.


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