In Bitcoin circles scams like labcoin, Mt Gox, Butterfly Labs, and Hashfast have victims that create a lot of noise. What often goes unnoticed when investigating and thinking about scams is the largest scam victim of all, Uncle Sam. By Uncle Sam I of course refer to the aging, ill embodiment of the the United States government, whose affairs are handled entirely by trustees in the executive and legislative branches of government and carried out by the bureaucracy with periodic aid or impediment from the judiciary.
Let us consider the vaporware known as the F-35 Lightening II1 a boondoggle of unmatched proportions in terms of a single weapons platform's cost in terms of national treasure and opportunity cost. So dysfunctional is this program that simply having developed three different planes would have been a less costly and more effective option. The price to merely acquire the planes continues to increase. Government pays to much for things all the time though. If this were merely the problem it would just be another matter of government spending too much for too little.
Where this scam gets dangerous is in sacrificing existing things. Existing, cost effective, and superior things because some people believe this thing will work out eventually.2 Essential upgrades for the F-16, a frequently used air superiority and strike fighter? Threatened. The F-22 air superiority fighter? Production ended after 187 units even though it's existence is supposed to justify a part of the F-35's pile of suck, as the the F-35 is outclassed even by many much older planes.3 In air combat it has been described as "double inferior." It also isn't even very stealthy.
More worrying though is the impact the F-35 is having by being a shitty strike aircraft4 and displacing aircraft that are excellent at the role. In particular champions of the F-35 want to lay waste to the entire fleet of A-10 aircraft. The A-10 is an unmatched national treasure, the world's greatest airborne cannon platform. With its largest in class cannon and wide array of bombs and missiles it can take on tanks, Toyota Hilux's, Camels, infantry under cover, and other aircraft.5 It often gets demonized as a single purpose aircraft while being the most excellent and elegant solution in the United States inventory for air to ground interactions.
Instead of relying on pricey stealth optimizations to fly high and light, if flies low to the ground and laden with an incredible amount of armor. It's straight wings allow it to navigate cannons and valleys that fighter aircraft can only navigate in movies with the assistance of CGI magic. Perphaps most importantly it can safely fly low enough and close enough to ground combat engagements to visually identify friend and foe. It can also linger in an engagement area longer and unleash more ordinance than any of the fighter aircraft which have a secondary ground attack role. The other specialized ground attack aircraft, the AC-130 is bigger and can linger longer, but costs more than twice as much to fly per hour6 and lacks the A-10's armor, speed, and air to air combat capability. It also tends to be the favorite aircraft of friendly boots on the ground.
Note that this exercise has merely covered one of the many ways Uncle Sam is being scammed. Maybe at some point I'll cover how the VA's bureaucracy scams the dear old uncle in another horrifying way.
- Some people might dispute its status as vaporware as it has achieved a measure "Operating capacity" for some definitions of operating capacity. [↩]
- This is that whole devilish opportunity cost business. [↩]
- Much of the suck comes from all variants having an airframe shape compromised by the Marine Corps variant's desire to take off and land like a helicopter. The desire to make these three different planes all look alike means the Airforce variant using normal runways and Navy variant using constrained, but not that constrained carrier take off and landing are much fatter and slower than they need to be. [↩]
- More worrying because air combat isn't something the United States has had to do much of outside of film and fantasy.Â [↩]
- I await the inevitable war game or simulation where an A-10 downs a squadron of F-35's [↩]
- This is a fairly comprehensive look at how much each USAF plane costs to fly per hour. The A-10 is one of the least expensive. Maybe part of the reason the Pentagon wants to cut it is lack of opportunities for related bezzel? If that's the case surely they could open a contest for a newer essentially iteration of the A-10's core essence. [↩]