There are many different ways to determine the ROI (return on investment) for military procurements. But, perhaps, the one most relevant to us techies is this: how cool is it?
The F-35B Lightning II short takeoff/vertical landing (STOVL) stealth fighter hasn't yet been the best investment for America's military. Plagued by exploding costs, production delays, and substantially increased per-aircraft costs, the fate of one of our most strategic future aircraft has been, shall we say, up in the air.
Even though the specified focus of the program is affordability -- no, really, that was the original purpose of this thing -- the craft still has potential as a serious replacement of old F-16 and A-10 craft.
In fact, what makes the JSF fighter so intriguing is that it's designed to serve the role as both a stealth bomber and a jet fighter. It can bring home the bacon and fry it in the pan. It can (or will, eventually, when it works) defend itself in the air and wreak utter havoc on the ground.
And, apparently, as of this week, it can also hover. The F-35B variant of the craft is designed to do short takeoffs and land vertically -- like a helicopter.
The British are the most famous users of hovering jet SVTOL craft. Almost all of us has, at least once, tried our hand at the Harrier Jump Jet in Flight Simulator or at least seen Harriers in Call of Duty 4 and Modern Warfare 2 -- although the Harrier Strike shown in MW2 is just a teensy-bit exaggerated over what the real thing can do.
Real Harriers can't vector thrust and just hover in an area for a long period of time. They just use their thrusters in takeoffs and landings.
The U.S. Marines also use STVOL craft and they want a lot of them. They have their eye on 340 of the snazzy craft. Uh, guys, if you get that many, can I have one? Pretty please?
Here's where I'm willing to sell America's budget down the river, where I'm completely OK with borrowing $38.4B from China to give the Marines all the F-35B's they want. Or, you know, maybe we just shouldn't give AIG execs their oh-so-deserved bonuses this year. Either way, give the Marines their fighters.
But I promised you a video, didn't I? I promised you just an oh-so-cool piece of video of the very first vertical landing of an F-35. It's way behind schedule, it's wildly expensive at $113 million per craft, and I don't care. Something this cool must be built.
Someone call James Cameron! Screw freaky, over-sized blue people. Can you imagine what 340 of these birds would look like, all landing together in formation? Oh, Baby, hose me off!
I'd sell my neighbor (not the cop, the other guy) for a chance to barf up my lungs in an F-35B ride. What would you do for a ride in an F-35B Lightning II? TalkBack with your answer below. Try not to be too disgusting.