Yeah, I read that article mostly for updates and some tech info (or lack thereof, at least we know how many lines of software there are, although it doesn't tell you much, imagine how many more will be added in its life), but indeed if you review it it's far from the critical articles that went before it. That's the issue with the JSF press all along, it either focuses on the bad or on the good. If "bad JSF", an article rarely goes into pros that would justify the problems or how they are easily overcome and often does not look at the lifetime, too much focus on the development/acquisition cost. The "good JSF" articles ignore bad news for the most part and still don't go into why we need such a complicated aircraft... sometimes even fail to address what makes it next gen or complicated, other than stealth and better than F-16 factoids. Or is this a AFM issue perhaps as it depends so heavily on the author? Sometimes I can predict the contents by just looking at who wrote it. I haven't read much other sources on the JSF than official info, newspaper, and AFM articles.
Nah, it will wind down too of course, at least when the US stops buying. Export orders will just be small batches, spread apart even more than now with the F-16s, because we've seen countries sticking to 2nd/3rd generation for way longer than they're good for, replacing them this last/current decade with new jets. Add 20-30 years before they get on the stealth track. Also the Super Hornets filling gaps means F-35 deliveries can be spread out for Navy/Marines/Aus. It may even be produced over longer period than just 25 years (F-16 will be 40 years in production?), as I don't see another manned fighter on the horizon. But right, numbers rarely add up... but it's what we understand easily, so they're thrown into it often lacking context or precision. I mean price drop of 10%...uhm, that's quite meaningless without knowing the assumptions made. Say next LRIP contract is reduced or delayed, or some teething/production problem is found, then it may easily increase 10%, right? Not to mention inflation stuff.
Whenever I see a serious publication just present the 3400 up to 5000 (whatever it is now) figure without explaining it, I feel uncomfortable about it, has anyone (press I mean) produced a projection based on current fleets and politics for the global market instead of just using the number "they say"? It's still all based on the F-16/F-18 story, but how many F-16As went to Europe, 500-600? Those countries now look at meh...200 F-35s tops? Some Hornet countries are definitely not replacing them one-for-one either (or maybe not at all). Attrition rates should be lower meaning options aren't taken up, with so much training being done on simulators and more on the T-X (did you see that article, US Aerospace at it again with Chinese design, seriously?), basically you have to deduct the two-seaters from the F-teen numbers too and then reduced requirements, how's it ever going to reach F-16 like numbers without another Cold War. And in some other markets... will be long before they get access to it or want it. Ah well, I guess they count on selling 500 to India in the future when their 5th gen coop with Russia fails to deliver something good enough to outperform Paki jets by 10x and on-par with China's fleet. Then what, give in and transfer the tech and move the production to India? Silly, but that's what I think needs to happen to arrive at a F-16 like total.
So 50 years, I've got no issue with that number. Don't think of that number as the BUFF's 50 years, produced in quantity over a couple of years and then kept in service for much longer (and btw, it's not the same because the BUFF is not done yet). Today's F-35s won't be in service anymore in 50 years, but the last production blocks will be (at least somewhere in the world). Even when production doesn't run for 25 years, I can see some countries sticking to half a squadron of JSFs for 10-20 years past that 30 years lifetime as it will be the final fighter for some European countries as we grow ever more complacent with defense and security. Look at Germany now with their slow introduction of the Typhoon, Tornado slow upgrades, and F-4F soldiering on, yeah Germany is a special case, but this is what the rest of Europe may be heading for. Do you need F-35 in numbers if all you do is just NATO air policing and limit RoE in conflicts to everything except Engagement.And let's face it, there will be countries flying them for the bare minimum number of flight hours because of flying costs and better simulators. Joint/Multinational exercises will just be simulated instead. Deployment exercises will be done with just a couple of jets and "extrapolated" for the force. Stealth is still being envisaged being needed for day-1 advantages whatever they call those strategies and a2a combat... that's not how it's going to be... day-1 will be unmanned and it won't be until they fail at the objectives before a plane with a pilot is being risked, at which point the opponent has already given up at the air battle having lost force multipliers because someone twittered their location, etc. Those expensive stealth planes will be kept in-country to avoid 9/11 like scenarios, for which in the event they will still fail at because we'll have let QRA times slip even futher.
Sorry, I just have a different picture of the future than for which these are built. I can't think of a plausible scenario where they make (more) sense than what we currently have and what's coming. Like the F-22 today, it's advantages for the first decade will be unneeded, underdeveloped, and too costly. Then like the Typhoons/Rafales today, it will be doing much less than for which it was designed hardly justifying its costs, with other ageing platforms being just as effective (or more thanks to upgrades). Then there's maybe 5 years during which you could justify it but not called upon and not up to the task, and then it's obsolete and fleets are cut to fund other capabilities such as cyber-defense and multipliers for the unmanned aircraft whatever makes more sense then.
I guess I went on too much. I want to see it replace F-16s, and see US need (although less than current requirements) but I'm not a believer... just like before, mixed feelings. Its radar and EOTS should be on the F-teens by now imho, and because it isn't I don't want to see the F-35 fail, but on the other hand, not believing Red/Yellow Dawn scenarios... why buy F-35? A modern stealthy F-5 like thing makes more sense for most of the world when unmanned platforms take over strike/bombtruck/isr/ew tasks. Oh well, what do I know. I think F-35 will like the B-1B or Tornado GR4/F3 in the sense that it's too expensive and complicated because it's designed to do things which will be no longer important by the time it's in full service. It's most expensive features will be obsolete by the time it needs to step up. The roles which it will be used for may be better fulfilled by other platforms, if only funding wouldn't have cut those. Made to succeed for political reasons, it will serve well and have its minor successes, but be a big financial burden for the service(s) in the future.
Finally, eh, isn't that a prerequisite for all bigwigs. They can't present less than "best scenario" info, because then it will affect the share price. Even if he believes that they will struggle to reach the 1000 mark within 20 years and that then it will come down to 1 a month for the next 20 years, by which time they will convert their lean lines to a on-demand workshop with long-lead parts inventories worth more than the company and a F-35 is put together in between fixing F-22s and producing 787 parts for Boeing and metalwork for the Chinese aircraft builders. He couldn't say that in public, right? And the author can't do much about that...
At least the lack of info is slowly becoming less of an issue, we've got a much better picture of what it is, when it's coming and how expensive it will be than just a year or two ago. And oh my, this thing is going to cause headaches in other areas than described so far... forget about heat, weight, maintenance, noise, those are small issues compared to may come: I can't recall any story of software that's complete and bug-free from the start, it may be quite limited for many years of service because of issues with software instead of the hardware.