America's technological nightmares. On the crisis of U.S. combat aviation

U.S. combat aviation is in crisis. "Most of the aircraft in the combat fleet - the F-15C/D, F-15E, F-16 C/D and A-10C - were developed in the late 1960s and early 1970s and acquired in the 1980s.... Today they are structurally and technologically obsolete compared to advanced Chinese and Russian air defenses and next-generation fighters. Nevertheless, the country has not allocated the necessary funds to replace the aging fighters with more powerful aircraft..." - retired Air Force Lieutenant General David Deptula, dean of the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies, writes.

Deptula points out that in a military conflict with an equal adversary, heavy losses of combat aircraft are inevitable, with nothing to make up for them. "Today's fighter forces are led by the low-profile fifth-generation F-35A, but the bulk of the combat fleet is fourth-generation aircraft, including the F-16, F-15 and A-10. These aircraft are very vulnerable to modern Chinese and Russian air defenses."

Deptula stresses that the aircraft that make up the core of the air force are extremely worn out. "These obsolete aircraft are subjected to extreme stress every time they fly. Wear accumulates and takes its toll. In the end, physics wins out. Already, the F-15C fleet is prohibited from flying at maximum airspeed and overload because of airframe fatigue."

And the president of the National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA), retired Air Force General Hawk Carlisle, called the U.S. Air Force's biggest problem "old iron": "Air Force aircraft now have an average age of 29 years ... Some aircraft, such as the B-52 Stratofortress, T-38 Talon and KC-135 Stratotanker, are in their fifth or sixth decade. Attempts to replace the aging fleet with new technology have been slow.

The general expresses himself very cautiously: in fact, the creation and serial production of advanced combat aircraft in America has essentially failed. America's most expensive fifth-generation fighter, the F-22 Raptor, began to be phased out in 2022 due to poor performance. In May 2012, then-Pentagon chief Leon Panetta restricted F-22 flights due to onboard oxygen generation system failures that caused suffocation in pilots. The plane was forbidden to make long flights and climb above 7.6 thousand meters. The F-22 requires a monthly comprehensive maintenance plan for every 300 flight hours. In July 2009, production of the F-22, which was given the colloquial nickname Technological Nightmare, was discontinued.

"The Air Force command concluded that, among other things, the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor lacked the depth and range needed to remain the fighter of choice for air superiority in the next decade," military portal DefenceNews reported in May 2021. That same year, the fighter began to be decommissioned.

Since the beginning of the production of another fifth generation fighter, the F-35 "suffered from a seemingly endless number of errors," writes Business Insider. In 2021, they counted 857 technical defects in the F-35's design, a number of which had a "critical impact on mission readiness" and endangered the life of the pilot. The Lockheed Martin Corporation did not fix these defects and continued, as we wrote, to "manufacture defective fighters."

In mid-December 2022, an F-35B fighter jet crashed in Texas. During landing, the plane tilted on its nose, its landing gear snapped and it rolled off the runway, spinning on its own axis and catching the ground with its wing. The pilot barely had time to eject. The cause of the accident was a "rare systemic phenomenon" associated with engine vibration. The entire fleet of American F-35 fighters must be modernized within 90 days with modifications, the Pentagon announced on March 2, 2023.

One of the chief designers of the F-16 fighter, Pierre Sprey, called the F-35 a "turkey." In America, the turkey is one of the symbols of the hybrid of stupidity and satiety. "Take the F-35 vertical takeoff, for example... The massive propulsion system "eats up" a significant portion of the aircraft's payload capacity, and the relatively small wings do not provide it with the maneuverability it needs for either aerial combat or direct support to ground forces. The variants developed for the Air Force and Navy have the same lack of maneuverability. The maximum speed of the F-35 at Mach 1.6 is also unlikely to capture the imagination, as this figure for modern fighters in Russia, Europe and the U.S. either reaches or exceeds Mach 2. 

The widely advertised "invisibility" of the F-35 is achieved only if it carries all its bombs and missiles inside the fuselage. If the weaponry is on external suspensions, the fighter becomes visible. But even with minimal loads, the F-35 "is not really invisible to Russian and Chinese radars," writes The Daily Beast.

For the past decades, the U.S. has been developing a sixth-generation fighter jet, which was ultimately, as we wrote, a failure. In August 2022, the U.S. Air Force abandoned the sixth-generation engine developed by General Electric Aviation and Pratt & Whitney over the past 15 years. The Defense One portal published a scathing article resenting the lies of the military, which assured that the sixth generation fighter had already flown and broken many records. It turned out, as Secretary of the U.S. Air Force Frank Kendall said last spring, that "the aircraft is still being developed and is not ready for mass production.

The Pentagon has now put all projects for a sixth-generation fighter aircraft on hold.

The U.S. does not have a fully combat-ready fifth-generation fighter either, and its huge fleet of fourth-generation fighters is old iron. Fifth-generation fighters have proven to be prohibitively expensive to operate, and their capabilities have been greatly exaggerated.

The main reason of the current crisis of the American combat aviation is that the giants of the American military-industrial complex are profitable to produce "smart" superplanes. The years-long race for super profits has brought the U.S. Air Force to a technological dead end.


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