Tim Steller’s recent column is a valuable addition to the debate over the deployment of the F-35 aircraft.
Populated with an abundance of military retirees and a supportive business community, there is no question that Tucson is an Air Force town that will continue to favor the presence of Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, no matter what.
Currently, the A-10 aircraft flying out of D-M is a perfect fit for our heavily populated area. It is relatively quiet and is an extremely vital component of U.S. air power. It is unclear how long specialized aircraft like the A-10 will be operational before the grand plan for universal deployment of the F-35 replaces them.
The key problem is with the whole concept behind development of the F-35. Pentagon planners bought in to a one-size-fits-all model to build every fighter jet for all the military services on the same airframe, utilizing the same engine.
Of course, this meant that hugely powerful and noisy engines would be necessary to meet the needs of such diverse missions as air-to-air combat, tactical bombing and close ground support, as well as carrier operations and vertical takeoff for Marine aircraft.
Talk about putting all the eggs in one basket! And this was a bet involving the future of all U.S. fighter jets.
The promise was that it would save billions of dollars in construction costs. The cost savings evaporated as the airframe proved to be more costly than projected. Two different engines were originally planned, but the quieter, more efficient one was later scrapped by Congress as a cost-saving measure. The result is the F-35 aircraft we are all concerned about. It is very costly and extremely loud — the loudest aircraft by far that the U.S. military has ever had.
As currently planned, all future U.S. fighter aircraft will be versions of the F-35. Realistically, this means that F-35s will eventually be flying out of D-M, whether based here or not.
The big problem that is causing all the controversy is the incredible level of engine noise. This is not just a local NIMBY issue. It is a national problem that will make deployment of the F-35 close to any populated area problematic.
Congress’ ill-fated move to shut down production of the quieter, more efficient engine must be revisited. Every effort should be made to communicate this need to our legislators.