On Being Enthralled with F-35, or maybe not

Only half a B-2 Bomber

Visualizing One Billion Dollars: It can buy 1/2 of a B-2 Bomber, Image from Wallstats.com

2018 is starting off with a kicker for the U.S. Defense industry according to US Military News. The tensions from prospective war with North Korea is helping promote a bonanza in new defense investments.

In “Amid Tensions: Japan, South Korea May Refit Naval Ships for F-35 Fighters” both allies have each promised to buy over forty F-35 fighter jets. They are investigating modifying their¬†Izumo helicopter carriers to accommodate the $100-$120 million dollar apiece jet.

Obviously, although in the event of actual war, the entire military apparatus of South Korea would be under Washington Operational Control (OPCON), the growing tension has given way to a new imperative for military modernization in Asian nations.

Instead of addressing the needs of imminent climate change catastrophe which hugely affects nations all around the Pacific Rim, now Japan and South Korea (ROK) plan to retrofit their two destroyer-class helicopter-carrier ships to provide for more heat-resistant tarmacs and heftier structural capacity.

However these changes and more ensure the technological retrofits will convert their Izumo-class helicopter destroyers into aircraft carriers, even though the F-35B is actually already capable of hovering and vertical landings.

The F-35 has many amazing features and facts associated with it, according to Facts Box in “10 Amazing F 35 Fighter Jet Facts.” It is a globally funded program including twelve international partners. Its flight and stealth capabilities make it appear to fly as effortlessly as Star Wars fighter crafts. It has many sensors, can drop smart bombs, and “is capable of carrying almost every legacy weapon that is carried by previous generation of fighter jets.”

Imagine being the lucky pilot in the cockpit of this super-expensive stealth killing machine. The person-craft hovering over millions of people who helped fund the plane.

In fact, a series of info graphs demonstrates how quickly the costs for these jet planes add up. Even with the assembly line production helping to drive the price-tag down, $1 billion dollars can buy only eight to ten planes.

Taxing the middle-class for 8 F-35s

US combined income from biggest cities

So how do 8-10 F-35 planes compare with what we can try to visualize?

According to Wallstats in “Visualizing One-Billion Dollars“:

  • It represents the taxes collected from at least 103,400 Americans
  • It’s the annual income of over 25,860 Americans (with mean earnings of $38.7k per year)
  • It’s the lifetime earnings of approximately 2400 low-income Americans
A small town working for a lifetime

Many poor people cannot fathom even a million in a lifetime

However here are a few caveats for those who support more militarization:

  • It’s less than half of the total program unit cost for a B-2 bomber
  • It’s the estimated costs from 48 hours of war in Iraq and Afghanistan

As to whether or not there will actually be war in North Korea (DPRK), according to US Military News, in response to December’s US and South Korea bombing exercises near North Korea’s maritime border, Pyongyang is no longer asking about if war will break out, but when.

Less than annual NCI Budget

48 hours worth of war in Iraq and Afghanistan

Infograph from Wallstats.com