Whatever the fate of the Boeing 787 Dreamliners, there is a reminder today of a far worse and more certain flying flop in the grounding of the F-35 Lightning II, the do-everything X-box with wings that is supposed to maintain Australia’s regional air defence superiority as the JSF or Joint Strike Fighter.
While everyone wants the 787 to succeed, and in due course, there is every chance it will, it is all but impossible to hold out such hopes for the JSF.
Plane Talking stopped following the misfortunes of the JSF some time back to focus almost entirely on airliners and airlines, and the misuse of PR spin in relation to them, which was then, and still is to a lesser extent, a problem associated with the Joint Strike Fighter.
A significant and costly issue for Australia was that the ADF ceased to behave like a critically engaged customer very early in its involvement with the project, and became part of a cheer squad.
With the benefit of hindsight, we saw senior defense figures and the successive federal governments who gave the JSF unquestioning support say some incredibly silly things about it, when questioning support could have resulted in more constructive outcomes, a criticism than can also be made of the uncritical adulation of all things 787 at the formative stages of that project as well.
Now Australia is in the position of buying more Super Hornets to paper over the inevitability of JSF project failure being made manifest well before this decade is over, which is like Poland buying more horses for its cavalry prior to outbreak of World War II, to severely truncate the full horror of those events.
There will be studies of the organisational and managerial failures of the Dreamliner and JSF programs at business schools world wide in the coming decades. The end result of the JSF debacle will be much more serious than that underway at Boeing, where an ultimately functional and reliable if not necessarily profitable outcome is more likely than not.
The JSF can’t do what it promised, it has been outflanked by the onset of the era of the advanced military UAV, it is horrifically unaffordable, and its joint proponents, the US defense and political establishments, are with each official audit and each escalation in cost visibly distancing themselves from impending calamity, including what it means for allies like Australia.