Still a failure. Let’s just lie about it shall we?
U.S. Air Force instructs airmen on exactly how to praise the F-35
by Clay Dillow, Fortune Magazine
September 25, 2015, 4:40 PM EDT
The Pentagon’s embattled F-35 jet fighter program received some much-needed good press last week when a group of U.S. Air Force F-35 pilots heaped praise upon the aircraft. This week those remarks-made at an event showcasing the fighter aircraft at Andrews Air Force Base-appear somewhat less genuine.
An eight-page internal Air Force memo marked “not for public release” is nonetheless making the public rounds this week, potentially erasing any P.R. bump last week’s showcase may have imparted on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program. Simply titled “Public Affairs Guidance,” the document details how airmen should “articulate the capabilities of the aircraft and (explain why we need the F-35)” to members of the news media, lawmakers, and other “opinion leaders”.
One particular response in the leaked media script directly addresses an earlier leaked memo unearthed and partially published by defense blog War is Boring. In that memo, an F-35 pilot details the many shortcomings (and defeats) of the F-35 when pitted in mock air-to-air “dogfights” with a much older F-16-one of the many older combat jets the F-35 is slated to replace. The memo instructs airmen to repeat the assertion the Air Force made at the time: That the F-35 is designed to attack stealthily from a distance rather than up close, and that the mock air-to-air trials in question weren’t even designed to evaluate the F-35’s dogfighting skills (the editors at War is Boring who saw the leaked memo say otherwise).
This summer alone the program has had to defend itself against both the leaked dogfighting memo and a scathing analysis from think tank National Security Network. The security analysis concluded that the F-35 will perform poorly against “near-peer” enemies and suggested the Pentagon find a way to reduce its planned purchase of more than 2,400 jets for the Navy, Marines, and Air Force.
The program faces another potential image challenge in the days ahead as Congress continues battling over the U.S. federal budget. If the gridlock continues, a government shutdown or a continuing resolution capping defense spending at fiscal 2015 levels would almost certainly derail the Pentagon’s plan to ramp up F-35 production in the next year.
The Pentagon needs that production boost in order to push down the per-aircraft price and fend off the oft-repeated criticism that at roughly $100 million per copy (depending on which version) the F-35 program is simply too expensive.