In recent years, and with a few exceptions, the F-35 combat aircraft from the American Lockheed-Martin has established itself among most European air forces as part of their modernization. Stealthy, connected and equipped with powerful sensors, the Lightning II has, to date, convinced no less than 10 European air forces (Germany, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Italy, Norway, Netherlands, Poland, United Kingdom and Switzerland), while 4 others have announced their intention to do so (Greece, Spain, Czech Republic and Romania), making the device a de facto standard for European hunting.
It must be said that the device does not lack arguments to convince. Belonging to the highly publicized although questionable 5th generation of combat, it has capabilities hitherto inaccessible to other aircraft of the moment, notably the Saab Gripen, Eurofighter Typhoon and Dassault Rafale , such as significant stealth and very powerful data fusion giving it unparalleled operational capabilities, in particular to evolve in the face of modern anti-aircraft defenses.
In addition, the combat aircraft having been acquired by 3 of the 4 US armed forces, the Air Force, the Navy and the Marine Corps, for more than 2,300 units, its future and sustainability are guaranteed for decades to come. . The Lightning II also has an attractive starting price, operating in the same price category as the Rafale at around $90 million in flight condition.
Finally, he benefited from unfailing support from the State Department and the Pentagon, while more than ever, the United States appears to be the guarantor of European security.
From then on, and despite numerous French protests regarding the threat that Lockheed's aircraft would represent to the future of the aeronautics industry and therefore to European strategic autonomy, its success was, to say the least, expected and predictable.
However, and without entering into the debate whether the device is or is not actually as efficient from an operational point of view as anticipated, it could well represent a colossal threat to European armies in the years to come. .
Not because of the appearance of systems capable of detecting stealth aircraft and which will deprive it of its main asset, and not more concerning the severe dependence not only on the United States, but especially on Lockheed-Martin that the system of The device imposes on its users. The real danger ahead will actually be budgetary.
The subject was demonstrated by a study both well documented and perfectly argued, carried out by a Greek author in an article published on the Belisarius site dedicated to defense issues of this country in perpetual competition with its Turkish neighbor.
The article shows in fact that the costs per flight hour of the F-35 in its A version, mainly acquired by the European air forces, are now approaching the threshold of $50,000, while at a strictly identical scope, the F-16 C/D, for its part, remains below the $25,000 mark.
Indeed, according to several studies and projections carried out by perfectly neutral institutes, such as the American GAO (equivalent to the Cours de Compte in France), the price of an hour of flight already exceeds $38,000 today (compared to $22k for the F-16), while the average age of the US fleet is only barely more than 3 years, and many expensive developments to come are looming, such as for the F-135 turbojet or the passage to Block 4 standard.
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