The director of the Defense Department’s Missile Defense Agency (MDA) has promised that the multipurpose stealth fighter will be able to shoot down enemy ballistic missiles by 2025.
Speaking to lawmakers from the Senate appropriations subcommittee on defense this week, MDA director Lt. Gen. Samuel Greaves said that pending funding for a ballistic missile defense interceptor, the F-35 would gain the capability to shoot down enemy strategic missiles.
“I’d say six to seven years to essentially work out the Concept of Operations [and] develop the capabilities – [whether] it’s sensor-based or a fresh lickety-split missile that’s hung on the bottom of an F-35 for the BMDS [Ballistic Missile Defense System] mission – to integrate those capabilities, test them and deliver them into a theater of operations,” the officer said.
Greaves noted that the fresh capability for the F-35 would be “if not a game changer, then a significant contributor to future ballistic missile defense.” According to the MDA head, his agency sees the F-35 as one alternative to the “classic missile defense system” such as the Patriot, THAAD or the US’s Ground-Based Interceptor system.
F-35 developer and manufacturer Lockheed Martin has been promoting the plane as a possible nuke interceptor for years, but officials at the Pentagon previously declined to offer a timeframe on how long it would engage to produce this happen, or its cost.
Lockheed touts the F-35 as a ‘accomplish it all’ airplane, a boast which has led to skyrocketing costs, delivery issues and quality control problems. The total program cost of the F-35, accounting for R&D, procurement and operations is now estimated at a staggering $1.6 trillion over 60 years.
The US Department of Defense temporarily halted deliveries of the planes this week over out-of-control repair costs. Last month, the head of the Pentagon’s F-35 office admitted that half of the 280 planes delivered to the military were suffering from a series of hardware and software problems making them unfit for flight.
Russia recently wrapped up development of its fresh Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile. According to estimates by the Russian military, it would engage at least 500 US anti-missile missiles to intercept a single Sarmat. Last month, US Strategic Command chief Gen. John Hyten admitted that the US military has nothing in its arsenal that could stay Russia’s fresh weapons. Also last month, President Putin announced that Russia has created a series of maneuverable, hypersonic weapons systems. According to the president, these weapons are invulnerable to any existing or prospective missile defenses, and are aimed at maintaining global strategic stability amid the US’s ongoing research into missile defense.