“Serious levers of influence”: how the work of Shanghai on the post of interim head of the Pentagon may affect the procurement of F-35

Acting US Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan was suspected of lobbying the interests of the Boeing corporation, in which he had worked for more than 30 years. This is reported by the American media. In particular, according to sources, and. about. Pentagon chiefs systematically and severely criticize the implementation of the fifth generation F-35 fighter development and production program, which Lockheed Martin corporation is engaged in – the main competitor of Boeing in the fight for contracts in the field of combat aviation.

Pentagon Acting Chief Patrick Shanahan was suspected of lobbying for the interests of Boeing Corporation, in which he worked for 31 years. This is reported by the Politico edition with reference to several high-ranking sources who attended meetings with the participation of the acting president. US Secretary of Defense.

Politico interlocutors said that Shanahan rather sharply criticized Lockheed Martin and, at one of the events closed to the public, in extremely negative form expressed dissatisfaction with the fifth-generation F-35 Lightning II plane. In particular, the interim head of the Pentagon complained about the technical problems of the newest fighter and too high costs for its development and production. Also, according to Politico sources, Shanahan argued that if you were busy with the Boeing program, the results would be better.

Valid criticism

According to experts, the criticism of Shanakhan is not without reason. So, in August 2018, the non-profit organization for the supervision of the activities of the US government (Project On Government Oversight, POGO) published a report in which it accused the Pentagon of concealing the critical flaws of the F-35. Experts told about serious defects in the emergency and braking systems of the aircraft, as well as about the insufficient accuracy of the bombing.

In June 2018, Bloomberg, citing documents from the US Department of Defense, reported that the F-35 was vulnerable to a lightning strike due to extensive use of composite materials and problems with the inert gas generation system, which maintains low oxygen levels in fuel tanks and is at risk of detonation.

In October 2018, the Pentagon suspended flights of part of the F-35 fleet, including due to the malfunction of the fuel tubes in the engines that Pratt & Whitney manufactures.

  • Flight Training F-35 in Utah
  • © US Air Force

According to military expert Vladislav Shurygin, the Americans did not manage to create a full-fledged combat vehicle and meet the planned deadlines: the lag in F-35 production rates is about ten years.

“Lockheed Martin made some serious mistakes at the initial design stage. As a result, they resulted in systemic deficiencies, the solution of which would take at least several years and tens of billions of dollars. Now the F-35 is a raw and rather expensive car, ”Shurygin stressed in an interview with RT.

My own game

Recall, US President Donald Trump appointed Shanahan and the acting chairman. Minister of Defense on January 1, 2019. According to the head of the White House, the official has a “long list of achievements” for the period of work as deputy Pentagon chief and top manager at Boeing.

Shanahan worked at Boeing from 1986 to 2017, rising to the position of vice president of the company. Over the years, he oversaw the development of combat helicopters, ballistic missiles, convertiplanes and civil airliners. In July 2017, Shanakhan went to work at the Pentagon as deputy minister.

According to The New York Times, until January 1, 2018, Shanahan was responsible for increasing the number of US forces and interacting with arms suppliers.

On December 21, 2018, Bloomberg reported, citing sources, that with the filing of Shanakhan, the purchase of 12 F-15X fighters produced by Boeing could be included in the draft US military budget for 2020.

In a conversation with RT, Vadim Kozyulin, a professor at the Academy of Military Sciences, noted that the transition of a “businessman” to the service in the Ministry of Defense is not something extraordinary. At the same time, as the expert emphasized, such personnel policy carries “risks associated with lobbyism and conflict of interest.”

“On the one hand, Shanakhan has received a good experience, he perfectly understands how the defense industry works, on the other hand, his professional background cannot but cause legitimate concern. Such a close connection between Shanahan and Boeing may lead to the fact that the corporation will receive more orders from the Pentagon. This is quite a natural desire of a person who has worked there for so long, ”Kozyulin explained.

However, according to experts, the statement of Shanahan that Boeing would have coped better with the creation of the F-35 than Lockheed Martin, is not true. Vadim Kozyulin believes that the US Department of Defense initially set an impossible task for manufacturers. As the expert believes, on a single technological basis it is impossible to create a combat aircraft that would satisfy all the requirements of the Air Force, Navy and Marines.

Winner fiasco

Boeing and Lockheed Martin are traditional competitors for contracts of the Ministry of Defense. In the late 1990s, corporations took part in the Pentagon’s competition to develop a universal strike fighter – Joint Strike Fighter (JSF). Boeing introduced the model X-32, Lockheed Martin – X-35 (prototype of the future aircraft of the fifth generation F-35).

It was assumed that the winner of the JSF in the future will replace the F-16, F-15 fighters, A-10 attack planes and deck-mounted aircraft of the Harrier family.

Joint Strike Fighter promised to become the most expensive Pentagon aviation program. The military planned to buy about three thousand cars. As of the end of the 1990s, the total value of contracts for the development and serial production of aircraft was estimated at $ 250 billion.

In a fierce fight, Boeing lost the competition to Lockheed Martin. In 2003, the US Department of Defense approved a production plan for 2,443 aircraft for several customers: the Air Force (F-35A), the Marine Corps (F-35B) and the Naval Forces (F-35C). However, due to the prolonged refinement of the fighter, the Pentagon was forced to change the serial production plan several times.

It was assumed that by 2019, the US military would have received 1966 F-35. In 2007, the military department reduced the volume of deliveries to 1,035 units, in 2012 – to 585, in 2017 – to 506. However, Lockheed Martin was not able to fulfill even such a significantly reduced production volume. As of December 2018, the corporation produced a little more than 350 aircraft.

At the same time, the cost of the F-35 program increased from an initial $ 250 billion to $ 1 trillion. In addition, Lockheed Martin did not fully comply with the requirements of the Pentagon to unify the airframe, avionics, components and assemblies for all three types of F-35. In particular, the modification of the fighter for the Marine Corps (F-35B) is very different from the other two versions of the aircraft in terms of both the airframe and the engine.

In their services, Lockheed Martin puts a significant reduction in the cost of one F-35 unit. Indeed, over the past 15 years, the price of the aircraft has dropped from $ 221 million (excluding the engine) to $ 100 million, and in 2020 the Pentagon expects to purchase F-35 at $ 80 million.

However, if we compare the F-35 with the Russian fifth-generation plane Su-57, then, according to the Sukhoi Design Bureau, it is about 2.5 times more expensive. Moreover, the domestic machine surpasses the F-35 in maneuverability and in terms of the possibilities of destroying ground targets.

Negative influence

Experts believe that the approval of the candidature of Shanakhan as head of the Pentagon will complicate the implementation of the rearmament program for the F-35, which, according to American experts, has been experiencing serious problems over the past 10 years.

“In the late 1990s, the Pentagon wanted to save on the implementation of the principles of modularity and universality in Joint Strike Fighter. But in the end, the costs of the US Department of Defense only increased. And there is nothing surprising in this, since the winner of the Lockheed Martin contest required additional funds to fine-tune the aircraft, ”Kozyulin noted.

The interlocutor of RT believes that with the appointment of Shanakhan, the situation around the F-35 may be exacerbated. According to Kozyulin, the former Vice-President of Boeing has enough authority to have a negative impact on the implementation of the program for the refinement and production of the Lockheed Martin offspring.

“Already, Shanghai has serious levers of influence. Moreover, there are many justified claims to the reliability of the F-35, ”said Kozyulin.

However, the expert notes that in any case today there are no alternatives to the F-35, so the Americans will have to continue to bring the car to mind, and the Ministry of Defense will spend money on acquiring these planes until the sixth generation fighter appears.

Nevertheless, analysts believe that it is too early to predict how the activity of Shanahan will affect the fate of the F-35. “It’s worth waiting for his final approval in the Senate,” Kozyulin concluded.



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