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This paper will present a series of arguments for increased and sustained funding for the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter. Beyond question, the program is the key index of weapons modernization for US forces for at least the coming decade, so much so that it will also be a reliable indicator of America's commitment to maintain global military preeminence. There are many positive reasons why this is so: the sheer size of the F-35 fleet would make it the centerpiece of any large-scale conventional air campaign; its reconnaissance and strike capabilities and ability to act as a 'node' in a larger 'network' of joint systems make it much more than a stealthy tactical aircraft; and its durability and ease of maintenance will create a capacity for large-scale, 'everyday' stealth. But there are also other, less happy reasons why the F-35 is so necessary. These have less to do with the qualities of the Lightning II and more to do with the unavoidable fact that there is no real alternative. The challenges of building the F-35 are partly a consequence of the sheer complexity of the system, but even more so the government's chaotic management of the program, and, most of all, irregular funding. The challenges faced by the F-35 project can be understood in the context of a larger failure to modernize the capabilities of US military forces. In sum, there is no modernization alternative other than stretching a few more miles and flying hours out of legacy aircraft of increasingly limited value. Fortunately, the Lighting II is an extremely capable plane. But no technology remains forever on the cutting edge; maximizing the value of the F-35 investment demands quick fielding and higher rates of production. In this paper, we will make four broad arguments for why the F-35 is the right solution.
Executive summary. Introduction. Building partner capacity. Addressing anti-access. The F-35 and the US Marine Corps. The F-35 and military modernization. Conclusion.
Includes bibliographical references (pages 37-40). Title from title screen (viewed on Feb. 15, 2013).