Blog, Product Management

F-35 fails part 4. Chinese do it better

F-35 parked

The F-35 Fighter fails saga

  1. The F-35 Fighter is a huge Product Management mistake
  2. Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize!
  3. How many engineers does it take to change a light bulb?
  4. Chinese do it better


Every project is unique. Especially for giant projects like the F-35 Fighter, every single decision lead into a series of designs that inevitably define its final shape. This is true not only for the engineering solutions, but also for the financial requirements, tactical capabilities and reference market.

These steps are wired like an octopus’ tentacles, so it is impossible to rewind the project at any moment and answer the infamous question “what if?”.

Well, almost impossible.

If you are fortunate enough to catch the Chinese’s attention on your colossal project, they might find some free time to have a look at it. Oh, don’t worry about sending them the blueprints and development files. In order to save you the pain, they will just break into some of yours unattended PCs and directly steal it. Convenient, isn’t it?

Once they have examined all your raw data and studied the wrong practices about contrasting goals, prioritization and resources allocation, they might decide to give you their humble opinion. Usually by preparing their Chinese F-35 model. I believe they changed the name to J-31 only because it was cooler for the eastern market.


F-35 J-31 model kit

Instead of creating a Chinese bad copy of the original Lockheed F-35, the Chinese used a cleverer approach. The J-31 is technically simpler than its American counterpart, mainly because the Chinese engineers were not capable of (and not interested in) replicating the huge fan for the vertical landing. But without the useless STOVL functionality, this jet acquires many other interesting features.

The J-31 is designed to be faster, more maneuverable and equipped with better armament. On top of that, the jet has a second safety engine, adds better pilot back visibility and an increased flight range. As the Daft Punk used to say, it will be harder, better, faster, stronger. Should I say that it would be also much cheaper?

With its stealth capabilities and the overall better performance, the J-31 is destined to be the top selling Chinese’s 5th generation fighter jet. And they are planning to sell a lot of them. According to Admiral Zhang Zhaozhong, “the J-31 will be most likely a model intended for export to China’s allies and strategic partners, which may include countries like North Korea and Iran”. Countries that couldn’t afford an F-35 and to whom the US will never sell it.

It is quite dramatic realizing that this massive Product Management mistake, called F-35, will result in such a terrible scenario. Not only have the US and the NATO partners spent an incalculable amount of money in the development of a mediocre product, also their most aggressive enemy-to-be will use a better version of the same product to fight against them.

My professional advice to the generals planning the 6th generation of fighter jet: this time hire some good Product Manager and please, protect your PCs with a password.

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Photo by Joint Strike Fighter Program, meyet.

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