Thank you, Chair.
And thank you, Professor Fergusson.
I want to bring us down from 35,000 feet to maybe only 10,000 and talk about your ideas in the context of the F-35. You wrote a pretty thoughtful article here in the fall about the F-35s. I just thought I'd reflect on your article, but also reflect on the testimony that we've had here over the last few months.
I don't think there's much argument around the table that we need to replace our jet capability. I don't think we're walking away from that. Once you lose it, it's gone forever. We agree with that. I don't know whether you're plagiarizing Dyer, who says it's going to be a “come as you are” war, but it is. That's likely true: whatever you have on the shelf is going to be what you have, and that's it, and there are no replacement possibilities.
Putting aside all of the technology delays and difficulties that Lockheed Martin is having, and all of this stuff about who's in, who's out, and how much this thing is going to cost, and trying to do it from a military and strategic analysis—again, I don't think there's much argument the jets need to be replaced. Given the overall proposition that whatever conflict we're going to be in, whether it's a continental conflict or an international conflict, we're likely going to be part of a coalition; that's just going to be a given. Certainly in an air conflict, the likely lead is going to be the United States. That's just going to be a given. So then the question becomes, if that's true, what does stealth bring to the dance?
We had a witness here who said stealth kills non-stealth each and every time, and produced statistics to that effect. On the other hand, other witnesses have said, well, yes, but we're never first in anyway; we are part of the follow-up. The government has basically staked itself to this F-35—and in some respects, I'd say, even hoisted itself on its own petard—where the strategic value of stealth, putting aside the concept of whether it's F-35 or something else, is challengeable, shall we say.
I'd be interested in your thoughts about what stealth brings to the dance that nothing else can possibly bring. Are there other alternatives that, as one British general has put it, will make do for the purposes of future conflict?