The F-15 and F-18 were both much prettier.
As a child of the defense industry – and more specifically a fighter aircraft brat – a Reuters story was picked up by the Daily Caller that should raise a whole lot of eyebrows:
The Pentagon repeatedly waived laws banning Chinese-built components on U.S. weapons in order to keep the $392 billion Lockheed Martin Corp F-35 fighter program on track in 2012 and 2013, even as U.S. officials were voicing concern about China’s espionage and military buildup.
According to Pentagon documents reviewed by Reuters, chief U.S. arms buyer Frank Kendall allowed two F-35 suppliers, Northrop Grumman Corp and Honeywell International Inc, to use Chinese magnets for the new warplane’s radar system, landing gears and other hardware. Without the waivers, both companies could have faced sanctions for violating federal law and the F-35 program could have faced further delays.
“It was a pretty big deal and an unusual situation because there’s a prohibition on doing defense work in China, even if it’s inadvertent,” said Frank Kenlon, who recently retired as a senior Pentagon procurement official and now teaches at American University. “I’d never seen this happen before.”
The Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, is examining three such cases involving the F-35, the U.S. military’s next generation fighter, the documents show.
The GAO report, due March 1, was ordered by U.S. lawmakers, who say they are concerned that Americans firms are being shut out of the specialty metals market, and that a U.S. weapon system may become dependent on parts made by a potential future adversary.
The waivers apply to inexpensive parts, including $2 magnets, installed on 115 F-35 test, training and production aircraft, the last of which are due to be delivered in May 2014. Lawmakers noted that several U.S. companies make similar magnets.
U.S. firms being shut out of specialty metals markets aside – two companies got waivers to procure parts for weapons systems from outside the US??????
Please excuse my !@#$%, but WTF!
And not just any foreign country, either. We’re talking about China, the people who have twice as many young men as young women right now (can you say conveniently lopsided and ready for some kind of action) and no problems ripping off any intellectual property that happens to come their way. Doesn’t matter if it’s $2 magnets, if the Chinese figure out what Lockheed is doing with the darn things, they’ll try to copy it.
Despite the truly unusual circumstance of multiple countries investing in the development of strike weapons, as opposed to the US allowing them to be sold when the next generation comes along, this is just weird. And they’re paying trans-Pacific shipping costs for $2 magnets? Green energy hasn’t quite made it to cargo ships at this point, and we’re making these products here. Why go overseas?
If this exception is made, where does it stop. And how can the purchase be inadverdent on the part of the contractors and their vendors when there are waivers involved?
Kendall said the waivers were needed to keep production, testing and training of the Pentagon’s newest warplane on track; avert millions of dollars in retrofit costs; and prevent delays in the Marine Corps’ plan to start using the jets in combat from mid-2015, according to the documents. In one case, it would cost $10.8 million and take about 25,000 man-hours to remove the Chinese-made magnets and replace them with American ones, the documents indicate.
So Lockheed want to finish on time and have no cost-overruns? Good luck now that the cat’s out of the bag.
Of course, we fighter contract people are familiar with Lockheed’s track record on such matters. It’s pretty abysmal. And yet they keep winning contracts.
The program is already years behind schedule and 70 percent over initial cost estimates. At the time Kendall was granting the waivers, officials were acutely worried that further delays and cost increases would erode the foreign orders needed to drive down the future cost of each warplane.
In the documents, Kendall underscored the importance of the F-35 program to ensure continued U.S. military superiority and counter potential emerging threats from nations developing their own stealth fighter jets, including Russia and China.
So, instead, they just order the parts from China.
So much for this:
Since 1973, U.S. laws have banned the procurement of specialty metals produced outside the United States for use on U.S. weapons. A separate 2006 law also bans the purchase of end-use items and components that include such specialty metals.
Don’t like an American law. Yeah, we’ll just grant a waiver and go around it. Who’s side are these people on? The Pentagon is waiving laws to help out a contractor?
Nothing to see here…move along.