This weekend, roughly 25 hours ago, the Washington Post released a story regarding the F-35, now there are a few stories about that crazy bird in circulation, yet this one was particularly fetching. The article (at https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2019/11/16/power-struggle-over-f-fighter-jet-comes-head-lawmaker-threatens-hold-up-contract/) called ‘A power struggle over the F-35 fighter jet comes to a head as lawmaker threatens to hold up contract‘ starts with “the complicated IT system supporting the fleet’s maintenance infrastructure still falls far short of expectations” is an eye opener, but it is not the IT systems (no matter how defunct they are) that is the issue, it is the ownership of certain IP systems in the plane, the patents themselves that are now the issue. It is not “some lawmakers criticized the terms of Lockheed’s arrangement with the government, saying overly generous intellectual property agreements threaten to lock Lockheed into a wasteful long-term profit machine with limited accountability” even though it is certainly an issue that is the setting, no it is “Rep. John Garamendi (D-Calif.) threatened to hold up a multibillion-dollar contract if fundamental questions aren’t resolved” that is the issue, yes having multi billion dollars in sales held up is one part way to go, for some of these buyers with a few billion in their pocket, looking at alternatives will be the coarse course they could be sailing, this gives additional problems for Lockheed Martin and the US government is setting the stage as it has the inner lane in this skating race, the problem for Lockheed Martin is that the opposition they face are Russians (who are coming with the Su-35 and the Su-57), apparently NATO sees the Sukhoi Su-57 as a bit of a felon, so anything can happen. China is coming with the J-31, according to some it is a copy of the F-35 (source: Business Insider) yet it comes without IP and Patent battles, so the copy will be out without a politician stopping production on elemental questions not being answered. In addition, its unit cost is $70 million, whilst the F-35 is between $77 million and $108 million, the cost price of the more expensive version implicitly states ‘including engine‘, so there is that to consider as well.
There is however a more serious note to the F-35 and the Washington Post gets there when we see: “Carolyn Nelson, a Lockheed Martin spokeswoman, said the government is working on a new technical data package that was not a part of the initial F-35 contract, as well as a separate “performance-based” contract for logistics support“, you see the issue we see here is not merely IP and patents, it is the situation where government is yielding the floor to local business. If we accept the mess that the US has made in regards to 5G and Huawei, whilst we accept the words of Alex Younger (MI-6) “Alex is giving us the national need and the premise that another government should not have ownership of infrastructure this important“, something I mentioned in ‘Tic Toc Ruination‘ (at https://lawlordtobe.com/2018/12/06/tic-toc-ruination/) almost a year ago. That setting is crucial, as such when you have a national product called ‘Defence‘ why on earth would you let that reside with a global player like Lockheed Martin? I get the idea that the avionics are a bit of a call, yet the IT systems are a larger debate, basically America has large needs with Lockheed Martin, so what happens when the well dries when the US debt becomes a noose around the nations neck? Do you think Lockheed Martin is sitting still? I do not expect that Russia or China ever having a piece of Lockheed Martin, but the UAE, Saudi Arabia? If we take premise to the situation ‘the premise that another government should not have ownership of infrastructure this important‘ the point of view I am taking is a lot less theoretical, is it?
And when we consider: “Air Force estimates that most of a given aircraft’s long-term cost actually comes from keeping it flight worthy. Manufacturers are keenly aware of this, with companies such as Boeing launching whole business units focused on maintenance and repair” we should be wondering why the Air force is striking out, not out like in ‘too bad, let’s try again‘ but in the way that the batsman asks ‘where on earth is the playing field‘, I get it, some jobs are too specific, but is that not the Air force focal point? That in light of the procurement: “the Pentagon has been buying jets in greater quantities in order to get the average price down. They recently finalized a $34 billion agreement that defense officials described as “the largest procurement in the Department’s history.” The deal brought the F-35’s price per plane below $80 million ahead of schedule“, so when you consider that buying 2400 planes (at the very least) got the price down, what math was done on fixing and maintaining these birds? 2400 planes imply 100-250 squadrons, it implies no less than 200-500 repair and maintenance teams, it implies that these people need to be schooled and as they come up short, the move of Boeing starts making sense in a real way, so how much additional costs are involved there? Let’s not forget that the US is currently at minus $23,000 billion (-$23 trillion), we might see the victorious ‘Yohza’ on them reducing the price of a bird, but how much debt, interests and cost of maintenance was seemingly overlooked?
In all this, the Government Accountability Office was seemingly not heard clearly enough, we get this when we consider “the program is having trouble keeping the F-35’s mission-capable, an odd problem for a brand new fleet. The overall F-35 fleet was capable of performing all of its tasked missions only about a third of the time” and that is before we consider the maintenance staff, their training and the setting of spending money before the elements are all adjusted for. So as the article ends with ““if we are missing parts and can’t get our jets airborne, our ability to deliver combat effects on this aircraft is significantly diminished,” said Lt. Gen. Eric Fick, the Pentagon’s F-35 program executive“, I merely wonder what other options were overlooked, that’s fair is it not?
You see when we are considering the upgrades and the adjustment to technical flaws in the hardware, the IT systems become a very real part of it all, oh and any person telling you that the IT is OK and there are not issues, will be my reason to introduce you to a liar. For that you merely have to look at DELL and their setting of laptops, I have had two laptops, both delivered on the same day, and both needing separate upgrades before I got them delivered to their respected users, not different systems, no identical systems! So when we see “we are missing parts and can’t get our jets airborne” in light of software glitches, it becomes a very real thing, the F-35 might be the final straw of short sighted management, whilst asking for the moon. Even as in the past operators like Boeing and Saab decided not to play along in light of bias towards the F-35, we see an evolving matter where they will grasp the events that surround the F-35 as a way to show nations that they have what it takes, in addition, there are outstanding offers from France (Dassault Aviation), it was the initial offer to a much larger degree to train technicians in the fields of service, training and operations that might swing previous missed hits, and no matter how we slice it, Lockheed Martin might be looking at the US as a sole customer soon enough, what a change IP and IT systems can make, even in two-seater planes.
I believe that the over grasp in the 2004-2014 era is now coming back to bite the eager who signed certain agreements. In light of the fact that the F-35 fleet is mission capable only 30% of the time should worry Lt. Gen. Eric Fick a little.
And even as the F-35 might be the odd duck out, the words of Loren Thompson stating “The struggle over IP between the government and defense contractors is likely to go on indefinitely. If you own the information, you can largely shape the future of the system” might be valid in the commercial world, but Lockheed Martin is in the defence world, the rules are a little different there, feel free not to believe me, but in light of The Project on Government Oversight (POGO) and their push to “prevent a future situation like the one now facing the F-35 program — and by extension, American service members and taxpayers“, here we see that the letter to congress by POGO executive director Danielle Brian might become a swing and a Jack, so whilst POGO seeks the optional “It would also allow the government to seek alternative suppliers should the original contractor fail to live up to expectations“, we see more than a victory, the entire Huawei issue might push for this solution, which would make several nations queasy on the F-35 solution they heralded.
The F-35 is showing me the one solution that mattered to the wrong people, it was greed overjoyed and that is about to gain the sunlight and limelight others wanted to keep out of consideration.