By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Tuesday, December 13, 2016 US Representative Martha Roby (R-Montgomery) defended the controversial F-35 fighter program.
Congresswoman Roby wrote, “You may have seen a lot of discussion today about President-elect Donald Trump’s tweet about the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. As I told WSFA earlier, I don’t think the president-elect was necessarily threatening the program itself, but rather using the cost overruns in years previous to send a message to the Pentagon about future procurements.”
Rep. Roby continued, “There’s no question our Armed Forces need a next-generation aircraft to replace the F-16, and that aircraft is the F-35. What’s important to know about the F-35 is that the cost concerns mostly came in the development stage, which is in the past and already paid for. At this point it would be a mistake to throw away the significant investment already spent on developing this aircraft that is now battle-ready and in production. But again, I don’t think that’s what he’s talking about. Donald Trump is known for his negotiation skills. It may seem unconventional, but I believe what he is doing is putting the Pentagon on notice that inefficiency and cost overruns won’t be tolerated for future acquisitions. And that’s a good thing. I’ve been an advocate for acquisition reform for some time, so I’m eager to see any specifics he might offer.”
Rep. Roby said, “I’m glad to see President-elect Trump is concerned about spending, and there have certainly been problems with cost overruns on military programs, including the F-35. The incoming administration and Congress must work together to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars when it comes to military programs. Part of that is not wasting past investments like the F-35, and I’m confident Mr. Trump and his advisers understand that.”
On Friday, September 9 Rep. Roby announced that Alabama’s 187th Fighter Wing, better known as the “Red Tails”, is being considered to field the Air Force’s new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
Congresswoman Roby said, “The 187th is one of several Air National Guard units nationwide currently under consideration to field the new F-35 aircraft. That list is expected to be culled soon, which is why I took the opportunity to brag on the 187th at a breakfast meeting this past week with the Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James and Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein.”
Rep. Roby said, “As you may know, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is the Air Force’s long-anticipated stealth fighter that will eventually replace many Cold War-era aircraft, including the F-16 Falcons currently flown by the 187th. The F-35’s next-generation capabilities will give American fighter pilots unquestioned supremacy in air combat situations anywhere on the globe.”
The conservative congresswoman said, “I believe the 187th Fighter Wing is a great candidate for the F-35 program. This is the military’s most cutting-edge war machine, so certainly the Air Force has a lot of specifications.”
Rep. Roby said, “As the selection process continues, I am eager to help make the case for why the 187th at Dannelly Field could be an ideal fit.”
The 187th Fighter Wing is currently flying F-16 Fighting Falcons. The first F-16 flew in December 1973.
Pres.-elect Trump tweeted on Monday, December 12 “The F-35 program and cost is out of control. Billions of dollars can and will be saved on military (and other) purchases after January 20th.”
According to original reporting by the Atlantic in October Trump told talk radio host Hugh Hewitt, “I do hear that it’s (the F-35) not very good.” “I’m hearing that our existing planes are better. And one of the pilots came out of the plane, one of the test pilots, and said this isn’t as good as what we already have.”
The Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II remains a highly controversial and expensive. The new generation of fighter combines the functions of several current aircraft types into one airframe. Variants of the F-35 are to be widely deployed by the Air Force, Marine Corps, and Navy, as well as by key allied partners. The F-35 is a single-seat, single-engine, all-weather stealth multirole fighter. The F-35’s top speed is reportedly 1,199 mph, its projected range is 1,379 miles, its wing span is 35 feet, and the length is 51 feet. The plane is powered by the Pratt & Whitney F135 engine.
Critics of the F-35 program (which would be the costliest weapons procurement system in history) argue that the plane is unnecessary, excessively costly, and has proven difficult to keep operational. Critics that the program could be cut short and existing F16s, F/A-18s, and A-10s could be replaced by new planes for a fraction of the next generation strike fighter.
Congresswoman Roby represents Alabama’s Second Congressional District.