A plane so expensive it’s useless
So, an F-16 can be had for $20 million with all the bells and whistles. A F-22 can be had for about $130 million fully loaded. A F-14 is about $22 million.
For the price of a single F-35, an entire squadron could be equipped and while I’m sure that the F-35 is really nifty, I wonder how well it would perform against a few dozen drones and/or F-14/F-16’s flown by highly competent pilots.
Consider that it should never be possible for an F-35 pilot to be able to log enough hours to become as skilled in the plane as he/she could have in a F-14 or F-16. The reason is simple wear and tear. With such an incredibly high operating cost, no F-35 pilot should ever be able to clock 1000+ hours in simulated conflicts in such a plane. It was expensive on old airplanes like the F-14 and Korean War era jets were used for training. Even with advanced flight simulators, this will never work on the F-35. It would probably cost a minimum investment of $500 million per trained pilot.
As for stealth, are you seriously trying to convince me that radio and/or heat invisibility has any value in an era where we can simply target on sight instead? If I were a country posing a thread to any country with aircraft carriers, I could easily launch high resolution optics into low earth orbit to track said aircraft carriers for peanuts. I would know precisley where each carrier was and would pick up jet stream from any take offs that could then be visiually tracked.
As for all the fancy AI features and tech. I’m sorry, unless the pilots are engineers with 20+ years experience in multiple disciplines of technology, the mass economy required for proper bug reporting can not be accomplished. Consider for example programs you currently use.
Software which costs A LOT and is only available to a limited number of technicians is buggy as hell, see Service Now or Cisco ISE for examples. Consider Apple’s Final Cut Pro which used to cost thousands of dollars. It was a bug ridden piece of shit. Users tended to find work arounds rather than reporting bugs. The bugs they did report were generally quite aweful in how they were written.
Software with thousands or hundreds of thousands of users produced public forums that greatly increased the number of bugs reported multiple times by multiple sources allowing them to be addressed and thereby creating proper fixes.
The only alternative would be for the developers to actually dog food their own products in real production environments. This way, when they encounter the problems themselves, they could properly instrument their systems and build fixed far more efficiently.
With a billion dollar aircraft, there is no chance in hell any government will allow a developer/engineer into a cockpit and afterwards let them duct tape a 3D printed diagnostics tool to it without months or years of lab testing first. Trial and error troubleshooting is completely out of the question.
The fact is, the guy/gal capable of diagnosing and fixing the problem won’t be allowed anywhere near the driver’s seat of the vehicle to do their jobs. They probably won’t even be allowed on the carriers to observe from nearby.
There are so many problems with a plane that costs this much from a purely common logic perspective it is sickening.
They built a plane that costs so much that as soon as one crashes, malfunctions, etc... the cost is so high the rest will have to be grounded until an investigation committee approves further flight trials. Let’s not forget that if a plane malfunctions and a pilot bails out, no matter how awesome that pilot may be, he/she will never see the inside of a cockpit again. You simply don’t crash a billion dollar aircraft and expect governments to turn the other cheek. In fact, you probably will never find a job flying for FedEx after that.
This might be the dumbest aircraft project in history. Right up with the Russian space shuttle project.
For a billion dollars, a country could design, build and deploy over 10,000 long range, armored kamakazi drones. They can be controlled like video games and can fly, land and explode on 10,000 targets simultaneously. No need for nukes. No need for massive bombs and earth shattering explosions. A single automated factory can produce and deploy them as fast as you can feed them materials. If done properly, a ship could be equipped as a floating factory capable of always building the latest model as needed. It might even be possible to do it from blimps or other airships.
It would be possibly to drop hundreds or thousands of drones from near space on a city, then active flight systems as they approach the ground, fly to precoordinated targets such as building supports and the demolish entire cities. Just pop up something like Google maps, click the positions on each building to deploy a bomb drone, drop 50% more than you need and let them all navigate to where they will be needed, stick themselves to their positions and wait for the “all clear”.
So while all the F-35 nations are wasting their budgets on useless planes and trying to pass rules about how drones can be used in warfare, countries with cheap labor and limited financial resources are probably figuring out how to 3D print most of their parts, stockpiling materials and preparing for a new type of warfare that F-35s aren’t ready for.