Most U.S. military aircraft are developed—not surprisingly—by one of the services, and have a tendency to take decades to transfer from design stage to flight.
Why so long? Well, it would take a book to explain that, but the short explanation is that the Pentagon excels in canceling itself out. For every effort, there seems to be a near equal and opposite effort—so people often work very hard—but get nowhere. And that’s a very good thing because if they got somewhere they would be working themselves out of their jobs—and that would never do.
In addition, it is extremely hard to pin down accountability because although people don’t lose jobs, they change jobs so often. And if they don’t change their jobs, they change their titles. And they are always changing their acronyms. Clarity is frowned upon in The Building. It makes things way too easy for the enemy.
What enemy? That is classified.
On top of all that, no Pentagon battle is every really over. A decision may go your way one day, but be reversed the next. Stir in constantly changing specifications and, with luck, you’ll never have to build anything so you won’t have be worried by the fact that it (whatever it is) doesn’t work.
But surely someone must be responsible? What about the chain of command?
The chain of command delegates. Good grief, what is the point of having a chain of command if you can’t pass the buck. Besides, there are always civil servants to blame. And they naturally blame Congress—for very good reason. And Congress doesn’t mind because politicians have notoriously thick skins—and get paid off. And if that doesn’t confuse the issue sufficiently, the services blame each other—which is what they do most of the time anyway. They are the real enemy—and war with them never ends.
Don’t knock all this. It keeps hundreds of thousands of people at work, pays for third level education for their children, finances comfortable retirements, and allows for extensive double-dipping. Besides, it’s all in aid of National Security so it must be a good thing—and it’s almost certainly secret.
In contrast, the Scorpion is being developed privately by Textron Airland for all those countries who don’t plan to go up against China, but still want an aircraft that looks cool (very important) and can do some damage. Also, it looks like you’ll be able to buy a squadron of Scorpions for the price of one F-35 (not that anyone knows exactly what an F-35 costs—the Pentagon isn’t very good at book-keeping and has a creative approach to facts).
What else can I tell you?
That you don’t mean all that stuff about the Pentagon. Surely, it can’t be like that.