Updated: Aviation Week suspends Bill Sweetman from F-35 story

[Update: Bill Sweetman's Facebook post, which I quoted below, is the reason he's temporarily barred from the F-35 beat, Aviation Week tells Danger Room. The plot thickens. It makes you wonder if one of his 91 Facebook friends tattled on him.]

Bill Sweetman notified me this morning that he has been temporarily ordered off the F-35 story by Aviation Week management.

Aviation Week editor Tony Velocci initially told me “no comment”, but added: “Itwas supposed to be an internal personnel matter but I’m really sorry to hear thathe’s spreading it around.”

Sweetman is the editor of Defense Technology International, a monthly magazine published by the Aviation Week Group.

It’s not clear what immediately precipitated the decision. But Sweetman is well-known as arguably one of the most outspoken — and, it should be said, well-spoken — critics of the F-35 program.

Lockheed Martin denies having any role in Sweetman’s removal from the F-35 beat. “I can tell you Lockheed was not behind this,” a spokesman says.

Sweetman recently visited Lockheed’s F-35 factory in Fort Worth, Texas, along with Velocci and Aviation Week staff writer Amy Butler. On the eve of his visit, Sweetman on 26 April posted a typically droll comment on his private Facebook page:

“Gentlemen, your target for tonight is Fort Worth. Flacks are predicted to benumerous and persistent on the run-in and over the target, and bullshit isexpected to be dense throughout the mission. Synchronize watches and good luck.”

Full disclosure: Sweetman is a personal friend and former co-worker at Jane’s. As a military technology journalist, I have great respect for his vast and detailed knowledge of weapon systems of all kinds.

But Sweetman himself would tell you he approaches F-35 coverage unlike other journalists. I see my role as simply to report the facts offered by both critics and supporters, allowing my readers to draw their own conclusions. Sweetman approaches F-35 coverage from the standpoint of an analyst who has empirically concluded the program is a flop. That position is always going to create a tension with his traditional role as journalist.

For the record, Aviation Week’s full statement is below:

“Aviation Week is committed to providing objective aerospace and defense journalism based on independent and balanced coverage. Following comments posted on his personal Facebook page, the editorial team has decided that Bill Sweetman will not be covering the F-35 program for a period of time. We will continue to hold our journalists to the highest standards of editorial integrity to best serve the aerospace and defense community.”

Update: Lockheed Martin has released a full statement:

“Lockheed Martin has not asked Aviation Week to take disciplinaryaction against Bill Sweetman nor have we asked that he be removed from reporting onthe F-35 program or any other Lockheed Martin program. In fact on April 27 Billand other members of the Aviation Week staff visited Lockheed Martin facilitiesin Fort Worth forbriefings on the F-35 program. We have a longstanding professional relationshipwith the entire Aviation Week editorial staff, including Bill Sweetman, and we continueto work openly with them on all programs, including F-35.”


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62 Responses to Updated: Aviation Week suspends Bill Sweetman from F-35 story

  1. Mike Plunkett 10 May, 2010 at 5:15 pm #

    Very sad to hear this. I’ve been a great fan of Bill Sweetman’s writing for many years and found myself agreeing with an awful lot of what he has written about the F-35. It’s a great shame to see an excellent writer muzzled like this and does nothing for AvWeek’s credibility.

  2. ArkadyRenko 10 May, 2010 at 7:25 pm #

    While it is unfortunate that he’s been told to lay off the story, really AvWeek did not have much of a choice. As Sweetman’s commentary was slipping more and more into his writings about the F-35, AvWeek had to separate the two, so that its reputation as a news organization remained unblemished.

    I suspect that there was some internal dispute over the recent improvements in the F-35 program. Perhaps AvWeek wanted to run a somewhat positive story, and Sweetman strongly dissented. Then, that dissent made the editors take him off the F-35.

    Really, though, AvWeek needs to protect its impartial integrity and so was forced into a tough choice.

  3. Obamanite 10 May, 2010 at 7:41 pm #

    As a journalist, albeit on an entirely different beat than Sweetman’s, I ran into the same egregious discord between my own journalistic integrity and my publisher’s business interests. I, too, was taken off my principal beat, because the publisher at the time was negotiating with the government agency I’d been clobbering to take over publishing of their magazine. They had let him know in no uncertain terms that such negotiations could be jeopardized if he did not “call off his dogs.” Which he did, and I promptly resigned. A couple of months later, I won my industry’s most prestigious award for articles I published, that, among other things, clobbered aforesaid government agency. The publisher reached an agreement with said agency and today publishes their magazine. Do not doubt for one second that LM let it be known that they could pull advertising from AvWeek’s magazine and website should they not “call of their dogs” (or dog, in this case Sweetman). Sadly, I saw this one coming many, many moons ago, and I’m only surprised it took this long.

  4. Johnny 10 May, 2010 at 7:45 pm #

    He’s become so personally invested in the matter that he’s become an embarrassment to the website. Over the past couple months I have read some questionable opinion pieces from this guy that many of the regular readers have shot down in the comments. He needs to put some emotional distance between him and the aircraft.

  5. Obamanite 10 May, 2010 at 8:01 pm #

    Well, I’m sorry Johnny, but while some of the F-35 fanboys who frequent the Ares site have indeed taken issue with Sweetman’s postings, many more have agreed with the crux of his reporting and analysis. And that’s the thing to remember: more than merely tasked as a reporter of the F-35 story, he was also weighing in as an analyst, and as such, he was completely within the bounds of the profession, perhaps not so much as a reporter but certainly as a columnist (and most certainly as a blogger – just look at what WaPo is doing with its blogs). Besides, do you remember Murrow taking down Joseph McCarthy? The former, probably the most respected American journalist of the 20th century, wasn’t exactly being reportorial, was he? And yet, he was certainly being journalistic. Sometimes, as a journalist, it is most definitely your role to call out “bullshit”, in Sweetman’s words, when you smell and see it. And you can certainly smell and see it smeared all over the F-35 program.

  6. Dave 10 May, 2010 at 9:16 pm #

    This was bound to happen sooner or later, given how far he’d deviated from what is normally termed as journalism. Talking to some of the folks at Aviation Week well before this, a lot of them seemed to be uncomfortable with Bill going to task on the F-35 the way he was- Granted he might have been right.

  7. Denmark 10 May, 2010 at 9:56 pm #

    Bill Sweetman visited Denmark in January. It is said, that Tom Burbage fom LM called Tony Velocci the 20th January and asked WTF this guy is doing to us in Denmark. To my knowledge Bill Sweetman was here to talk about fighter technology and requirements. In the statement LM has released, they talk about longstanding professional relationship. That tells me that Tom Burbage call to Tony Velocci was before that longstanding professional relationship. Or is it professional relationship to behave as LM (Tom Burbage) did?

  8. Tom 10 May, 2010 at 10:29 pm #

    The simple thing is that Bill had started hounding the JSF program non stop. Many of his articles were around the JSF and JSF alone, and how it sucked. He had concluded the program would fail and was as Stephen mentioned, in contradiction with his role as that of a conventional journalist, which would be an impartial observer. He was more of an activist journalist. In which case, LM is going to take note and of course so will Av Week, which too would try and maintain its relationship with the US Mil Industry.

  9. Denmark 10 May, 2010 at 10:48 pm #

    What is wrong in hounding the JSF program? What is wrong with an activist journalist? What is wrong with many articles around JSF and JSF alone? The question is – Is/was Bill Sweetman right or wrong in what he wrote?

  10. ELP 10 May, 2010 at 11:02 pm #

    Thank goodness! Now we can get to some real reporting of the program via the tried and true method of copy/paste from LM and DOD press releases.

  11. Stephen Trimble 10 May, 2010 at 11:02 pm #

    Denmark is asking a very important question. Activist journalism has a celebrated tradition, going back to the US muckrackers in the early 20th century or the Project on Government Oversight today. Notwithstanding the agenda, fact-based reporting can take many legitimate forms. However, like I said, practicing it can create a natural tension with those who are being targeted. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, but that is the risk you take. I lack Bill’s analytical skills and technical knowledge, so I try to stick as closely as possible to the facts as I find them and as the situation evolves. So, in other words, the ability to predict that a program is doomed to fail is simply beyond my skill, not necessarily beyond my ethics.

  12. Stephen Trimble 10 May, 2010 at 11:10 pm #

    Touche, ELP. Touche! :)

  13. Upandaway 10 May, 2010 at 11:19 pm #

    The JSF is above all a political project with immense stakes for the people involved, and it does seem that Bill aquired too much attention -> enemies for Aviation-Week to handle.

    I wouldn’t be to hard on them, if anything it is surprising they let it get this far, with Ares turning in to a lightning-rod that probably began threatening their business.

    Anyway, this is pretty much how things go in sector-specific media with Journos with very specialized skills. They really have no-where else to go if they start bashing the gilded elephants in the room. The golden rule being that he with the gold sets the rules…

    In such an environment, honest analysis and integrity becomes subversive. Mr. Sweetman flew too close to the sun in the search for truth and got burned for it.

    Why do you think Jon Stewart is so popular?

  14. StuffedBeans 10 May, 2010 at 11:49 pm #

    Bill Sweetman has poked fun at LM in his blog-posts that is true but not when he wrote JSF articles in DTI. In the DTI articles he kept it professional as always.

    It therefore seems like AW is taking action on his contributions to the ARES Blog which has been sceptical to LM but at the same time also technically and factually true. All with sources to new claims.

    But he is just one writer. AW has a number of more pro-JSF opinionated contributors such as Graham who rarely offer criticals remarks next to his reporting.

    Perhaps the problem is having personal opinions.

    Too bad, my thoughts on AW&S dropped quite a bit today.

  15. sferrin 10 May, 2010 at 11:55 pm #

    The only part that surprises me is that it didn’t happen sooner. He was starting to make Airpower Australia look almost rational.

  16. DCMC 10 May, 2010 at 11:57 pm #

    This looks like one corporation sacrificing an individual in order to keep the peace with another corporation. I doubt that AW management personally believes the claims coming out of the F-35 program, but it’s also sure it doesn’t want to go nine rounds with the program over those claims. Sounds sensible, but appeasement’s track record has been checkered.

  17. Johnny 11 May, 2010 at 12:01 am #

    By sferrin

    The only part that surprises me is that it didn’t happen sooner. He was starting to make Airpower Australia look almost rational.

    He did start the habit of citing material from that site.

  18. Denmark 11 May, 2010 at 12:19 am #

    I understand he was citing material from Airpower Australia. OK, but if it is right what they say, then I can’t see what is wrong in doing that. To my knowledge Bill Sweetman is not the only one in this world who is citing other. The problem as I see it, is that somebody don’t like what he was doing. I don’t think this would have happened if he has been hounding the JSF program non stop and been writing positively. Would that have been good journalisme? No – but he would probably survive. We definitely need journalists like Bill Sweetman.

  19. Johnny 11 May, 2010 at 12:28 am #

    I’m not saying everything APA writes is wrong, but when a critical journalist starts printing material from a F-22 advocacy website, who’s sole purpose is to push for F-22 over F-35, it makes me wonder about his objectivity.

    I’m a skeptic of the program as much as anybody, but at times I felt I was reading an ELP blog, rather than a critical journalist who at least makes some attempt to be objective.

  20. Charley A. 11 May, 2010 at 1:03 am #

    Follow the money.

  21. Tony Montana 11 May, 2010 at 1:38 am #

    Self-Censorship among private media corporations is the greatest threat to opinionating journalism today.

    Bill intelligently counter-balanced a tiny percentage of all the spin-PR coming out of LM and its allies.

  22. RSF 11 May, 2010 at 4:57 am #

    With the stupefying amount of moronic PowerPoint drivel and disinformation on the F-35 from Lockheed Martin, I looked forward to a regular dose of healthy skepticism from Mr. Sweetman at ARES.

    To bad that Aviation Weekly felt the need to roll over for the fighter program that’s to big to fail.

  23. CircleInLift 11 May, 2010 at 4:57 am #

    Oh, I have a really great idea for a new blog. I don’t have the time to produce the content myself, at least not every day, but I could only hope that one of the defense literati would run with this idea:


    The idea being a total ripoff of the Fake Steve Jobs blog, we can post amusing takes on JSF while Bill is in exile on Elba as it were. One could imagine a starter post:
    “So Bob Gates Calls”

    I also want to make a better version of the F136 Twitter page, with the tweets written first-person. Example: “Today I ingested a bunch of simulated FOD, doctor (Ph.D engr) says I’m fine. COMPETE NOW!”

  24. br_dlf 11 May, 2010 at 5:11 am #

    I am sad but not very surprised. He is not the first critic who was silenced. I have seen so much the same (in the JSF project). And quite understandable. It does not matter if Bill Sweetman is right or not. 300+ billion dollar is just a too big stake. My surprise is it did not happen earlier. And given what I have seen in my own circle I would not be too surprised if pressure on AW and BS was of the rough kind. Along lines such as ‘If you do not stop this nonsense you are never going to get work (from us) again’. Money talks. Big money talks big. It does also indicate that AW cannot be taken serious anymore as an objective source of information.

  25. geogen 11 May, 2010 at 5:12 am #

    Bill’s briefs on – as he deduces – an inherently flawed Program being improperly disclosed to Congress et al, is part of his genius abilities in his specialized field as a columnist.

    However, one can understand Av Week for not wanting to rock the boat at this pivotal time. That’s only natural and part of the biz.

    But not to be denied, Bill will fairly earn his due recognition and status on the subject in time.

  26. Ed Otto Pernotto 11 May, 2010 at 5:13 am #

    I have no dog in this fight but I have followed Mr. Sweetman’s writings for decades, geez, am I that old? He is an incredible resource and excellent writer as well as a distiller of information. I haven’t followed him lately but I think the post that’s been cited is over the top. He’s not a blogger in his basement, which I used to be, he’s representing the most prestigious journal in the aerospace industry.

    You can present the facts as you know them and let the readers make judgements based on them. I think when you let the snark sneak in and you start to become part of the story and not covering the story, you have left true journalism and have become a partisan.

  27. Denmark 11 May, 2010 at 9:24 am #

    In the statement Lockheed Martin released they say they will “continue to work openly whith them (AW and Bill Sweetman) on all programs, including F-35″.
    When I read that statement, I ask myself what kind of openness. If it must be credible and not just something tangential to BS, I think Lockheed Martin ought to have annotated and corrected what Bill Sweetman has previously written in case there should be written something that was not true. Therefore, I can only conclude – with Lockheed Martin’s own words – that the openness they claim has not led to open reactions. As this appears not to have been the case, it must be because Bill Sweetman has been right in what he has written.
    I think all of you know the Danes and the way they stand and fight for the right to speak, think and write. What have happened here, is handcuff not only to Bill Sweetman on this fundamental right/privilege.

  28. aeroxavier 11 May, 2010 at 10:31 am #

    he touch the true

  29. Steve 11 May, 2010 at 11:04 am #

    I have been reading Bill’s article’s for over a decade, since he worked for Janes. I was impressed with his knowledge and his impartiality. Bill was balanced, but that balance seems to have left him. Yes the F-35 program has problems, but I did not see BIl hacking into the Eurofighter when it had a 90′s suffix, then its 2000 monica then finally no date date attached at all. Its Tranche 1 guise was limited air-air only, but Bill made hardly a noise. I do not recall any article he wrote damming the software stability of the F-22 or its very short range when compared to the F-15, or its FY84 $35M price tag.
    So why did Bill suddenly get outraged by the F-35?
    Who knows?

  30. Firefox 11 May, 2010 at 11:06 am #

    Enought to say this may give F-35 couple more months to breathe, and shows a lot of Lockheed senior management experience in silencing press, dating back to helping Dutch royal family with extraordinary expenditures back in sixties to bolster F-104G sales, and not just that:-) F-35 will eventually collapse into itself due to its sheer dumb BS criticial mass, long before pilots in Su-35, Su-50 and J-12s could use is as target practice. I will consider terminating Aviation Week subscription if they fire Bill and advise others to do so, and Bill Sweetman just won a bottle and a German dictionnary, as Flak goes without “c” (Flugabwehrkanone). And of course, I will boycott Lockheed Martin products at my local foodstore! Firefox out.

  31. Mark 11 May, 2010 at 11:55 am #

    @Firefox – Bill’s pun perhaps went unnoticed:

  32. David G 11 May, 2010 at 5:27 pm #

    So what happened to freedom of speech and views? USA turning communist?

    AVWeekly has buckled to outside pressure and decided to gag one of it’s top journalists who provided an informed counter view against LM and others BS and spin over the F-35.

    So if they (LM and others) can’t handle the arguments that Bill Sweetman puts forth they decide to shut him up by whatever means necessary.

    Very sad and AVWeeklys leadership has gone down a few notches in my opinion, it used to be my first read for military matters, it won’t be anymore.

    Air Power Australia-you are alone in your voice of dissent.

  33. Amicus Curiae 11 May, 2010 at 5:52 pm #

    Steve, those other programs you mention were not were not sucking the financial oxygen from the defense budgets of the Western World and asphyxiating real capability. The F-35 project management points out the problems encountered by “legacy” programs and claims the F-35 difficulties are historically typical. Some of us disagree.

    Recent additions to the New Amicus Curiae F-35 Dictionary:

    Affordability: An amount of resources just above the sum of worst case scenario predictions + what can be stolen from other programs + what can be borrowed from future generations.

    Schedule: A living and breathing document suggesting progress towards a decreasing set of goals, eventually merging at a point called “success”.

    Veritas vincit

  34. Dfens 11 May, 2010 at 6:44 pm #

    Anyone stupid enough to pay defense contractors profit on development deserves to have lots of development and very few aircraft. Welcome to the US DoD procurement system since 1994. Ironically the public excuse for paying profit on development was that it was working so well for NASA… And here 40 years after Apollo 11 we still can’t put a man back on the Moon.

  35. Joe Katzman 11 May, 2010 at 9:40 pm #

    I sort of understand what AW is trying to do. They’re still wrong.

    Modern journalism has done itself immense brand and financial damage with a combination of a “gotcha” reporting ethic, personal opinion masquerading as news, and reporters who lack basic grounding in the subjects they cover. It shows, the customers have noticed, and as other options arise, they’re deserting. Justly so.

    I can see why AW might want to distance themselves from that – but Bill is not in that mold, and never has been. He has written multiple books on Lockheed’s stealth fighter programs. His analysis of the F-35 program is detailed, and backed by research that has not been contested.

    It would be one thing if his commentary was uninformed. Or poorly researched. Or his research was contested. None of these are true.

    Which leaves only professionalism as grounds for removal. That fails, too.

    Sweetman’s Facebook comments are undiplomatic, but they are self-evidently true at any major corporate or governmental dog-and-pony show. If the reporters are NOT very skeptical going in, especially after major admissions that previous rosy assurances have been untrue, then there’s no nice way to say this: they’re either unqualified to be there, or they’re fools. As long as the reporters know their stuff, can accept the possibility that things might actually be going well or turning around if evidence supports this (the F-35 program fails this test rather badly right now, by the government’s own admission), and are willing to report good news with bad, they are doing their jobs very well.

    It does appear that Bill has come to a genuinely informed opinion, on the basis of evidence that he has discussed publicly, that the F-35 program is flawed in important ways. Recent revelations suggest, strongly, that his research is more credible than Lockheed’s assurances.

    I’ve come to that kind of opinion myself on some subjects. The question is, is Bill willing to qualify what he does not know for his readers? And will he revise that opinion on the basis of new evidence? As, for instance, I’ve done myself re: the wheeled Stryker APC, after its very positive performance in Iraq. While also noting its limitations, underlined by the Canadian experience in Afghanistan. (New conclusion: Strykers are worth every penny on roads, which are frequently part of the core mission, but their off-road capability is problematic in tough terrain. They supplement tracked armor excellently, and need to be part of the mix, but cannot replace tracks).

    Everything I know about Bill says that he fits this mold.

    Which is why this looks, strongly, like external pressure. Lockheed Martin need not apply it, and does indeed have a long association with Sweetman. Some of its many industrial partners could have filed the complaint, at its urgings even, and its denial as written would still be true. The USAF could have complained, and threatened retaliation, and Lockheed Martin’s denial would still be true. That would be consistent with the USAF’s response in getting a respected RAND analyst fired over the Pacific Vision 2008 report, which questioned its fundamental airpower assumptions in the context of a Taiwan Straits scenario.

    This is, inherently, a very opaque situation, with no transparency. Its impossible for outsiders to really tell.

    But unless Aviation Week comes up with a stronger and more coherent reason to take a guy who is arguably the most deeply knowledgeable journalist in aviation, off of covering the largest defense program in history… it can only look like the publication has sold out its ethics, and its brand’s good name.

    I’ve enjoyed Aviation Week for many decades. I hope they can come up with that explanation, and offer more transparency into a situation that is now about them, more than it is about Bill. But until they do, I’m with Bill.

  36. Obamanite 11 May, 2010 at 11:42 pm #

    You may presumably remember, Stephen, that I posted several months ago about the inherent conflict between reporting for a trade publication and the publisher being beholden to ad dollars from the very same corporate interests such publications cover? I had warned about this tension months ago, and now, Bill Sweetman, the most respected military aviation journalist alive, has been felled by it. The EXACT same thing happened to me. Hard to see how in this climate any genuine journalism may take place…

  37. Stephen Trimble 11 May, 2010 at 11:51 pm #

    Ok … let’s not get too dramatic. Bill Sweetman, by all accounts, is alive and employed. He has not been “felled”. Bill has been temporarily taken off one of the topics he normally covers, allegedly due to a perceived Facebook indiscretion. Given his outspoken record on F-35, that’s more than an internal personnel decision. That’s a news story. But, as far I’m aware, Bill continues to be gainfully employed covering defense technology. So, let’s just keep that in perspective.

  38. Stephen Trimble 12 May, 2010 at 12:04 am #

    I am, however, touched by the outpouring of concern for Bill. It reminds me in some ways of the final scene from It’s a Wonderful Life, perhaps with Mr. Potter re-roled as Peter Bailey. ;)

  39. Obamanite 12 May, 2010 at 12:36 am #

    Stephen, perhaps you’re right and maybe I’m an overly dramatic kind of guy. For instance, when I was asked to tone my coverage down a notch, and I was told why by a well-informed third party (my sympathetic editor), I chose to resign instead of remaining gainfully employed by a publisher I loathed the sight of. As for sympathy for Sweetman, it’s more like being chilled to the bone by this development. And yes, of course I’m sympathetic toward his predicament.

    Now, we find Sweetman’s “recusal” somewhat acceptable because, after all, he is still free to speak his mind in another forum and it wasn’t the government itself that asked for him to be recused from the F-35 program. However, if we’re all somewhat okay with that happening it’s because we’re employing a somewhat antiquated, Orwellian standard to judge what’s happened here. What about tyranny as applied within a capitalist system, wherein large corporations, through the power of the purse, are allowed to trample all over something so fundamental as freedom of the press? When you realize that corporations are far more powerful in their pervasive presence over all of our daily lives than any government in history ever was or has been, to realize that they can, through veiled threats and insinuations, prevent oversight of their operations, is quite simply chilling. Do we not remember what happened to one Jeffrey Wigand?

  40. Joe Katzman 12 May, 2010 at 1:01 am #

    Obamanite says:

    “When you realize that corporations are far more powerful in their pervasive presence over all of our daily lives than any government in history ever was or has been, to realize that they can, through veiled threats and insinuations, prevent oversight of their operations, is quite simply chilling.”

    In their fondest, wildest dreams, that is not possible.

    Sweetman’s removal has had the net effect of intensifying the story. He’s not the only investigative journalist out there with access to the same fundamental facts – though he is ahead of us all in terms of background knowledge. And the venues where such things can not only be published, but can be taken seriously, is mushrooming.

    My recommendation, should any Lockheed employee actually espouse views similar to the quote above, is that they ought to be taken for immediate drug testing.

    This does not mean that large corporations won’t try to exert improper influence, of course – I myself have noted the bomber-sized holes in Lockheed Martin’s formal denials, and would like something a lot more bulletproof. Or that good people won’t get hurt by improper influence. They will. Or that we shouldn’t stand up for them. Of course, we should. Or that we’ll always be successful doing so. I don’t have to tell you that last bit ain’t always so. There will be casualties.

    What I am saying is that such attempts will generally fail, and not only fail but often backfire. To an extent that makes your quote simply untrue.

    Even as the fight to keep it untrue remains no less important.

  41. R Jonsson 12 May, 2010 at 8:51 am #

    Bill Sweetmans analytical skills and technical knowledge on the Joint Strike Fighter F-35 has been widely attested the best the world and has been able to benefit from. He really is missing in Aviation Week, which, with the suspension of the Bill, will lose a lot of confidence.
    If this is a way to silence critics of the JSF is the Joint Strike Fighter deal quickly on the way to go to a ruin.
    To command someone to shut up will never be able to quiet the rest of the world – possibly drive up the corruption and more money in the pockets of the market that try to deceive the world and who lack self-criticism.
    About Aviation Week’s readers would have been told readers what many thought would have had to express, and probably also maybe Bill would have liked, had revealed truths that may soon had relegated the Joint Strike Fighter project to the happy hunting grounds. The plane is probably nothing to brag over. It was thought that all the successes of the strategy is rather shortcomings.
    Eurofighter, Rafale and Gripen is far more advanced with new revolution developments in weapons technology than the new fifth-generation fighter F-35 that will not be of any use in the same way as its European competitors.
    Late, the U.S. defense leadership realized that Lockheed Martin is likely to have failed in F-35. The same with F-22 – although it is by far the world’s best fighters (read fighters and not strikers). The seriousness with F-22 is that plane in 2010 have not yet saved a single soldier in either Iraq or Afghanistan. Still more embarrassing – F-22 is a plane that costs huge sums of money but can not be used for purposes other than to identify civilian aircraft over the American continent – aircraft suspected to house terrorists. It is an expensive way to drive the development.
    F-35 is the failure of the very simple reason – it is plainly an extra seat for a system operator who can handle the advanced radar AESA, target and laser designators, communications links, coordinating attacks with Forward Air Controllers, control and managing the UCAV and UAVs, electronic warfares etc. Fighters today need more advanced technology than to only be stealth and to manage all this you need an operator in an extra chair. You never know when the hostile are looking at you and to handle that the operator can save the crew with counteractions.
    An extra seat in the F-35 has apparently never been updated which is the biggest and the most fatal mistake taken by American air strategists.
    The technological revolution requires, over time, even more expertise in the flight deck and not only a skilled pilot who also may have such different qualities that he / she can not even deal with the management of a new mobile Iphone or even handle the computer for linking information to others than to him/herself.
    This emerges very clearly now that Boeing has shown up their tail-less future projects that are two-seater and can be regarded as strikefighters and not as the F-35 – a single-seater ineffectual fighters who only will have a capacity to combat S 300 and S-400 antiaircraft missiles.
    The question is how much is F-35 a stealth plane?
    Bill Sweetman could certainly identify with his thumb in the right place and that was still good. … or?
    United States must be substantial “Gap-Fillers” now, and not since, while you put the F-35 in the same way that Robert Gates stopped production of the F-22A. Lockheed Martin has apparently become a protected cultural aircraftindustry living on moneys and “skunk works” project. They do not even have been able to supply spare parts for Hercules aircraft on time to RAF. Lockheed Martin has failed and it is a scandal if it turns out that Lockheed Martin has managed to suspend excelled Bill Sweetman. This, with the help of so-called ignorant fan-boys “who criticizes an old wise world expert in aviation, as writer Bill Sweetman play.

  42. Firefox 12 May, 2010 at 11:03 am #

    Thanks Mark, have to work more on my English. My apology to Bill.

  43. Firefox 12 May, 2010 at 11:23 am #

    Little of insider view to support Obamanite: I´m have my own dose of experience with corporations in aerospace as such, and that is unfortunatelly the way the cookie crumbles. While I may speculate what was behind Bill´s silencing, I know pretty well environment capable of doing it by a couple phone calls. The bad usually comes from corporations, on the other side I wouldn´t believe USAF (of other military branche) is to blame – they are mostly the honest ones, compared to usual corporate behaviour. The point here is, in “Flag follows the dollar”, I can live with that, but hardly can take “we live in a free society”, as we do not, we are free, but there are limits to that freedom, sometimes leaving no freedom at all. But that is another story. If LM is behind this, I´m all OK, they will somehow be punished in time by God, Boeing or government, like with the F-104:-( If Pentagon is behind the scenes, then we have an ooops situation. And Stephen, yes, it is good to hear Bill is safe and sound:-), blogospehere will be checking on that.

  44. Weaponhead 12 May, 2010 at 1:40 pm #

    The biggest program in DoD history has been plauged by problems, cost overruns, and schedule delays and cover-ups. Bill was one of the few journalist that tried to find out what was really going on when the DoD, JPO and LMCO press releases kept saying everything was just wonderfu (despite the fact that almost no flight testing was going on).

    So who, if anyone, can expose the facts after this chilling message?

    I know that ELP and Steve Trimble are trying but AvWeek is a source that has very wide exposure. It sounds like they are just going to repackage to oh so insightful F-35 press realeases from now on.

    Oh well what’s another $350+B of waste when we’ve pissed away nearly a trillion on bailouts in one year.

  45. Denmark 12 May, 2010 at 3:06 pm #

    “Denmark” has released a full statement:

    “”Denmark” has not asked Aviation Week to take disciplinary action against Bill Sweetman nor have I asked that he be removed from reporting on the F-35 program or any other fighter program. In fact in January Bill visited Denmark and talked about fighter technology and requirements. I am convinced that many had a longstanding professional relationship with what could be read in Aviation Week. Unfortunately what has happened lately could very well limit the openminded approach with which “Denmark” untill now have been reading Aviation Week”. (End of statement).

    Maybe somebody think that Bill wasn’t right in all he wrote. But then they could correct him. I am sure AW would have published comments from LM if they had any relevant true comments/facts to correct what Bill wrote.
    On the other hand, I can’t see what is wrong in commenting F-35 (hounding the JSF program non stop)(and other A/C). The companies want to tell how good their fighters are. Sometimes it is unbelievable what is said. So what is wrong in following up on those Company Power Points? Bill did. Let’s have him back on stage again. Aviation Week is not the same whithout him, and if “somebody” are going to kill AW for bringing him back on again, then journalism -as part of the free worlds press – is killed. Killed – maybe because a “huge” company don’t like what he said and wrote.

  46. Chris Pocock 12 May, 2010 at 6:28 pm #

    Hmm…I don’t usually write in these forums, but this is such an important issue. Like Steve, I have great respect for Bill’s analytical talent. And also, after reading his comments here, for Steve’s humility.
    But I do believe that journalists should strive for impartiality. In this type of debate, that is best achieved by separating the reporting piece from the comment piece.
    Hint to my own employer: let me do a comment piece!

  47. Jawaralal Birnbaum, Jr. 12 May, 2010 at 7:37 pm #

    Ah, Bill Sweetman’s work will continue. We would be incredulous if Av Week or LockMart spoke frankly. So, the public statements should be ignored. Luckily, there are enough congresspeople and their staffs and auditors and other probing media who will hardly let the costs of this program be unnoticed. The American taxpayer has had enough of this fiasco. And more career professional warfighters have realized the limited mission and role of this plane and would like to spend their budget more usefully. LM’s cost management performance is a signal that more competition is desperately needed.

  48. Denmark 12 May, 2010 at 9:37 pm #

    Your comment on May, 10 you also say: “In which case, LM is going to take note and of course so will Av Week, which too would try and maintain its relationship with the US Mil Industry”.

    Can you elaborate just a little on those words, so I can understand what you realy are saying and especialy the words: “take note”?

  49. Eric 13 May, 2010 at 2:40 pm #

    I think the point you guys are missing is that he wrote BEFORE the visit that it would be BS….that’s very biased, so he was not doing his job.

  50. Insider 17 May, 2010 at 12:40 pm #

    Some further thoughts on this woeful misstep by the Aviation Week ‘leadership’.

    Censuring Bill Sweetman over a (humorous) comment made in private and not in the workspace is a quite spectacular intrusion into employees’ personal affairs that should worry everyone working at McGraw Hill.

    I am pretty sure that all of us, including Mr Velocci, say things when among our friends that our mothers or our bosses would not like – but they are said in private and in a context that has nothing to do with one’s nine-to-five job. By choosing to base a professional disciplinary matter on a private, sideways remark Aviation Week shows a colossal lack of judgement. It also shows how the company is all at sea when it comes to the world of social media.

    Aviation Week has embraced the empty-headed notion that ‘traffic is king’ and forces employees to fill ever-increasing quotas of blogging and Twittering noise. As most of these people are already busy with proper writing jobs they can be forgiven for being less than enthused about this box-ticking – but as performance reports are based on their levels of posting, everybody keeps on shovelling.

    As a result, much of what is on the Ares site is disposable. Look at how few comments the majority of posts receive – it’s typically zero. Nobody cares about most of what is written there. The only person who really understands what blogging is seems to be Mr Sweetman.

    Surely, blogging is supposed to be punchy, opinionated stuff that does not fit into a straight news slot. It is supposed to be unconventional and thought-provoking – not recycled press releases, second-hand newspaper stories or transcriptions of lunches with some lobbyist. I see a very clear line between Mr Sweetman’s reporting and his blogging and editorial comments – however his bosses clearly need some refresher training in all this, and sterner backbones.

    The only person driving any real traffic into the Ares site was and is Mr Sweetman. The misguided action taken against him has not only damaged Aviation Week’s reputation but also its business model – although I’m sure LM’s advertising spend brings in more than a million zillion hits ever will…

  51. Denmark 17 May, 2010 at 2:35 pm #

    For me to sum up it’s obvious that action has been taken against Bill Sweetman. And reading Tom’s comments: “In which case, LM is going to take note and of course so will Av Week, which too would try and maintain its relationship with the US Mil Industry” I can imagine, that this will hapen again if something is said that LM don’t like. That’s maybe the way big bussines is in the US, but why is this “punishment” only going one-way? What about the other way around – if LM dosn’t tell the truth? How can we then take action against them or other doing the same? Do we have any other actions/reactions than those Bill Sweetman used? Maybe he went a little (privately) too far – I don’t know – but it looks like somebody have been searching for any opertunity/moment to “kill” him. This way I think journalism in the way I know it (or think it should be) no longer is free to talk and write. It looks like the power of money is dictating what is accepted to be written (at least in the eyes of LM)

  52. VNC communication counsel 17 May, 2010 at 4:41 pm #

    Same old same old, happens all the time, here in the Netherlands too. There is a confusing between two roles here that needs to be elucidated. Once again. For the umpteenth time and in accord with many other voices:

    A blogger or columnist is not a journalist!

    Thus every comment above passing Mr. Sweetman’s Ares Blog off as a journalistic endeavor is way off the mark.

    Courts of all levels in many cases here have decided that a columnist or blogger has much, much more leeway than a journalist. The difference between the two categories of writers is jurisprudential — and clear to anyone with a rational and open mind.

    P.S. Johnny, what’s wrong with the article you linked to? Looks fine to us. But then, we mostly agree with Mr. Sweetman and we are an independent company, exercising our freedom to speak out when needed. Heaven knows that in the case of the JSF case it is needed — badly!

    Respectfully yours,

    Dhr. drs. VHJM van Neerven MSW MA
    editor-in-chief VNCcommunicationcounsel
    Amsterdam, the Netherlands

  53. Howard 18 May, 2010 at 6:28 pm #

    AvWeek has a nasty, yet long standing, habit of bending over for their advertisers… a lot. I do not believe for one second that LMT didn’t have something to do with this. If AvWeek’s past record of dealing with the sort of bad news that advertisers don’t want printed is any indication, Sweetman was most assuredly suspended at LMT request.

  54. Howard 18 May, 2010 at 6:30 pm #

    AvWeek has a nasty, yet long standing, habit of bending over for their advertisers… a lot. I do not believe for one second that LMT didn’t have something to do with this. If AvWeek’s past record of dealing with the sort of bad news that advertisers don’t want printed is any indication, Sweetman was most assuredly suspended at LMT request. It wouldn’t be the first journalist AvWeek has lost over advertiser meddling.

  55. Alkaline vs Acidic 3 June, 2010 at 5:23 pm #

    Wonderful to read!

  56. Denmark 12 June, 2010 at 12:31 pm #

    Tom I haven’t seen any reaction on this question, so now I am trying again:
    Your comment on May, 10 you also say: “In which case, LM is going to take note and of course so will Av Week, which too would try and maintain its relationship with the US Mil Industry”.

    Can you elaborate just a little on those words, so I can understand what you realy are saying and especialy the words: “take note”?

  57. Dog Aggression 23 July, 2010 at 11:02 am #

    Excellent job.

  58. phone recording 23 July, 2010 at 11:35 am #

    Thank you for a great post

  59. JTGWDDT 29 July, 2010 at 7:30 pm #

    Sad to see a collegial attempt at humor go so wrong. Free Press, like Academic Freedom, is sacred in a American society, but operation in and around corporate proprietary or classified environments sometimes can run roughshod over its proponents. While I know that LM deserves the benefit of the doubt in denying involvement in the action, I hope their statements will cause AvWeek to make this trip to the woodshed/doghouse a very temporary state of affairs for Mr. Sweetman.

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