The last manned strike fighter and robot like flying machines
06/04/2013

The long and expensive saga of the US designed and manufactured Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter jet took another turn when earlier this year Canada announced it would reconsider its promised purchase of 65 of the jet aircraft, after an independent auditor put the combined purchase and maintenance price of the order of $ 46 billion over the 42 year life of the project; in 2012 the Canadian government put the cost of the purchase alone at $ 9 billion ( http://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/editorials/2013/01/02/cost-overruns-jet-should-prompt-pentagon-reassess-project/gYZy0N40hTEnRXwcEJlc3K/story.html ).   With UK  Royal Air Force pilots beginning test flights of the fighter in the US (UK is acquiring a vertical takeoff version) the huge cost of this programme again raises the question - with the emergence of the ubiquitous Drone, are these aircraft really required?   

Initially the UK, which is quite heavily involved in the construction of the the fighter, was planning to acquire 150 aircraft. With costs now at around $130-150 million per aircraft that number is now less than 50.  An Economist Magazine article ends with the comment: "Some military strategists already think that the job the F-35 is meant to do can be better handled by cruise missiles and remotely piloted drones. In many roles, unmanned planes are more efficient: they carry neither a bulky pilot nor the kit that keeps him alive, which means they can both turn faster and be stealthier. And if they are shot down, no one dies. Even the F-35's champions concede that it will probably be the last manned strike fighter aircraft the West will build."

This newsletter provides a link to the above 2011 Economist article on the future of this aircraft (http://www.economist.com/node/18958487) and to a recent article, also from the Economist, explaining the work of scientists to launch an insect like robot, no bigger than a fly: http://www.economist.com/news/science-and-technology/21577036-insect-robot-no-bigger-fly-takes-air-robodiptera