1937 (age 81–82)
|Occupation||defense analyst, record producer|
Pierre Sprey, born in 1937, is a defense analyst and record producer. As a defense analyst working together with John Boyd and Thomas P. Christie, he was a member of the self-dubbed 'Fighter Mafia', which advocated the use of energy–maneuverability theory in fighter design.
Sprey was born in Nice, France, and raised in New York. He was educated at Yale, where he studied aeronautical engineering and French literature, and also at Cornell, where he studied mathematical statistics and operations research. He subsequently worked at Grumman Aircraft as a consulting statistician on space and commercial transportation projects. From 1966 to 1970 he was a special assistant at the Office of the Secretary of Defense. After 1971, Sprey left the US Department of Defense, but continued working as a consultant on military issues until 1986, when he became a recording engineer and later founded the Mapleshade record label.
Defense analyst, Criticism of the F-15
During the 1960s, Pierre Sprey belonged to a group of defense analysts who called themselves the 'Fighter Mafia'. At the time he joined them, he had been a weapons system analyst working for the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Systems Analysis. The 'Fighter Mafia' group of defense analysts worked behind the scenes in the late 1960s to advocate a lightweight fighter as an alternative to the McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle.
The Fighter Mafia strongly believed that an ideal fighter should not include any of the sophisticated radar and missile systems or rudimentary ground-attack capability that found their way into the F-15. Their goal, based on energy–maneuverability theory, was a small, low-drag, low-weight, pure fighter with no bomb racks. The Fighter Mafia influenced the design requirements of the highly successful General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon, although they were not happy with design changes made to the YF-16 as it became a costlier multi-role fighter rather than the lighter air-to-air specialist they originally envisioned. Sprey continues to be critical of the F-15 fighter.
Pierre Sprey left the Pentagon in 1971, continuing to consult on the F-16, A-10, armor and anti-tank weapons. He also helped lead two consulting firms, one active in international defense planning and weapons analysis. At this time, Sprey continued to work in combat data-based cost effectiveness analysis of air and ground weapons. He and Colonel John Boyd worked with others in the Pentagon and Congress toward military reform, helping gain passage of military reform legislation in the early 1980s.
Criticism of the F-35 and A-10 divestment
Pierre Sprey gained wide notability as a frequent critic of the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II program. He argues, paralleling his earlier arguments against the F-15, that despite its high cost (likely over 200 million dollar per plane depending on the number purchased), the F-35 is less agile than the F-16. Compared to the F-16 or A-10 (in both of whose operational roles it is marketed to operate) the F-35 as overweight and dangerous, stating “It’s as if Detroit suddenly put out a car with lighter fluid in the radiator and gasoline in the hydraulic brake lines: That’s how unsafe this plane is…" and "full of bugs". The Russian state-controlled online magazine Sputnik News quoted Sprey as saying: “The F-35 is so bad it is absolutely hopeless when pitted against modern aircraft. In fact, it would be ripped to shreds even by the antiquated MiG-21... ” 
He argues that in the close air support role, the F-35 is a poor A-10 replacement as it flies too fast for pilots to spot targets with their eyeball and lacks maneuverability at low speeds. He says It lacks the necessary radios, cannot survive small arms fire (or anti-aircraft guns) and has poor loiter time. Sprey contends that close air support should be the Air Force's most important mission and that the USAF has been trying to retire the A-10 for years simply because it does not want the CAS mission.
Response to Sprey's Criticism of the F-35
Pierre Sprey gained wide public notability after having been interviewed on his views of the F-35 by the popular-audience press, by Russian state-owned media such as Russia Today and Sputnik News, on the politics and policy news network C-SPAN, at a meeting of the activist group "Stop the F-35", and during a podcast of a debate between Sprey and a retired US Marine Corps combat pilot and instructor at the "TOPGUN" United States Navy Strike Fighter Tactics Instructor program who has piloted both the F-35B STOVL variant and the F-22, on the website of Aviation Week and Space Technology magazine.
Advocates of the F-35 state that the plane's unit costs will range between 80 and 95 million dollars when larger numbers of aircraft are purchased. Sprey said in an interview with the CBC's The Fifth Estate that the F-35 would likely cost over 200 million per plane (including development costs rather than excluding them).
Sprey is sometimes credited in popular-audience media as being a "co-designer" of both the A-10 and F-16 aircraft. In other cases he is simply cited as helping to design these planes. An introduction to a podcast debate between Sprey and Lt. Col. David Berke (US Marine Corps (ret.), a former combat pilot and instructor at the "TOPGUN" United States Navy Strike Fighter Tactics Instructor program) said Sprey "helped conceptualize the design of the F-16 and A-10 fighters."  Sprey took no part in the designing of these aircraft.
2017 saw widespread questioning of Sprey's perspective on the F-35. In the Paris Air Show that year, an F-35A demonstrated a range of complex aerobatic maneuvers that led commentators in the aviation and popular press to question Sprey's allegations that the F-35 was incapable of flying at low level, at low speeds, or with the agility of the F-16. In addition, defense-related blogs carried interviews with pilots who fly and train others to fly the F-35 who report that it has higher angle of attack and better close-in maneuverability than the F-16 during dogfighting.
On September 28, 2018, an F-35 Joint Strike Fighter crashed in South Carolina. The US, UK, and Israel each subsequently grounded their entire fleet of F-35s. On October 12, Pierre Sprey stated in an interview with Radio Sputnik's Loud & Clear show that "the reason for both the high cost and low quality of the plane's parts is the way the procurement system operates. Built into this system are incentives for cost overruns and corruption by military brass who go on to lucrative defense contracts after they retire."
Pierre Sprey now records music through his own label "Mapleshade" and sells high-end audiophile equipment. His recording with the Addicts Rehabilitation Center (ARC) Choir singing "Walk With Me" appears in Kanye West's 2004 hit "Jesus Walks." Sprey said he earned enough royalties from the West song "to support 30 of my money-losing jazz albums."
Sprey's recording techniques are highly unconventional, aiming for accurate reproduction of live music rather than manipulating sounds (e.g. with equalizers, pitch correction, etc.) to make mediocre artists sound good. He records with only two tracks as the multitracking approach compromises the reproduction of the live music experience.
- "What's Mapleshade?".
- Ricks, Thomas E (May 16, 2006), "Whatever happened to… Pierre Sprey?", The Washington Post (article).
- Michael J. Leahey (December 1989). "A History of Defense Reform Since 1970". Defense Technical Information Center.
- "Pierre Sprey". Project On Government Oversight. Retrieved 2017-09-07.
- Bjorkman, Eileen. "The Outrageous Adolescence of the F-16".
- Coram, Robert (2002). Boyd: the fighter pilot who changed the art of war. New York: Little, Brown, & Co. ISBN 0-316-88146-5.
- Rogoway, Tyler. "Pierre Sprey's Anti-F-35 Diatribe Is Half Brilliant And Half Bullshit". Foxtrot Alpha. Retrieved 2017-09-07. "...to think that the F-15 is a loser even after four decades of incredible success, not to mention the fact that it has never been bested in air-to-air combat and retains a kill ration of 105.5 to 0. This denial of clear historical reality is a startling indication that Mr. Sprey may be living in the 1970s when it comes to air-combat doctrine, or maybe he simply does not want to admit that his stripped down, all super-maneuverable light-weight visual fighters or nothing initiative was not the right path for America's air combat forces after all."
- Clark, Geoffrey (August 28, 2017). "F-35 Lightning II - Mystics & Statistics". www.dupuyinstitute.org. Retrieved 2017-09-07."“Surprise is the first because, in every air war since WWI, somewhere between 65% and 85% of all fighters shot down were unaware of their attacker.” Sprey mentions that the F-16 is superior to the F-15 due to the smaller size, and that fact that it smokes much less, both aspects that are clearly Within-Visual Range (WVR) combat considerations. Further, his discussion of Beyond Visual Range (BVR) combat is dismissive."
- Grier, Peter (August 2010). "USAF's Indispensable "Failures"" (PDF). www.airforcemag.com. Retrieved 2017-09-07."In 1981, Sprey wrote an airpower section in a book issued by the Heritage Foundation which questioned the F-15’s effectiveness. The F-15 was larger and more visible than its predecessor the F-4, wrote Sprey, making it vulnerable in daylight close-in dogfighting. He claimed the Eagle was too dependent on radar guided missiles, which “are not likely to be more effective than those used in Vietnam.”"
- Cockburn, Andrew (June 6, 2013), "Flight of the Discords: The military–industrial–congressional complex bullies the F-35 Lightning II into Burlington", Heart of empire (World Wide Web log), Harper’s.
- Sputnik. "Russia's MiG-21 Would Rip Apart America's F-35 – US Analyst". sputniknews.com. Retrieved 27 August 2017.which quoted him as saying, "The F-35 is so bad it is absolutely hopeless when pitted against modern aircraft. In fact, it would be ripped to shreds even by the antiquated MiG-21," Sprey told RT, commenting on a recent expert report, which dismissed the F-35 project as a total failure.
- "The U.S. Air Force Knows the A-10 Will Beat the F-35". Retrieved 2018-01-24.
- Trevithick, Joseph (Mar 13, 2015). "Now the U.S. Air Force Wants You to Believe the A-10 Is Too Old to Fight". War is Boring.
- The Fifth Estate (2016-12-27), Defence analyst Pierre Sprey on the F-35 (2012) - the fifth estate, retrieved 2018-01-24
- Sprey, Pierre. "WHAT IS CLOSE AIR SUPPORT (CAS) AND WHY IS IT AIRPOWER'S MOST IMPORTANT MISSION?" (PDF).
- "Report: In test dogfight, F-35 gets waxed by F-16". Ars Technica. Retrieved 2017-08-27.
- "Extended Interview: Pierre Sprey - Blog - the fifth estate". Retrieved 2017-08-27.
- "'Software disaster': Pentagon never even planned F-35's gun to shoot until 2019". RT International. Retrieved 2017-08-27.
- "Pierre Sprey". www.c-span.org. Retrieved 2017-08-27.
- "Pierre Sprey and USAF Col Rosanne Greco TV Interview at Center for Media and Democracy - Stop the F-35". Stop the F-35. June 1, 2013. Retrieved August 27, 2017.
- "Podcast: F-35 in the Crossfire, Part 1". aviationweek.com. Retrieved 2017-08-25.
- DiChristopher, Tom (2016-07-11). "Lockheed Martin CEO: Price of F-35 jets down 57 percent". cnbc.com. Retrieved 2017-08-25.
- "F-35 cost target impossible without block buy, Lockheed says". Flightglobal.com. 2017-02-09. Retrieved 2017-08-25.
- "Defence analyst Pierre Sprey on the F-35 (2012)".[dead link]
- Michel III, Marshall L. "The Revolt of the Majors: How the Air Force Changed After Vietnam" (Doctoral dissertation). Auburn University. Retrieved 2013-05-26.
- "Watch the F-35 Fighter Jet Shut Down Haters With a Stomach-Exploding Demo Flight". WIRED. Retrieved 2017-08-25.
- "F-35 Unleashed: Paris Flight Demo Displays Warfighting Potential". aviationweek.com. Retrieved 2017-08-25.
- Clark, Colin. "Pilots Say F-35 Superior Within Visual Range: Dogfight Criticisms Laid To Rest". Breaking Defense. Retrieved 2017-08-27.
- "Norwegian Pilot: Yes, the F-35 Can Dogfight". warisboring.com. Retrieved September 7, 2017.“My experience so far is that the F-35 makes it easier for me to maintain the offensive role [compared to an F-16], and it provides me more opportunities to effectively employ weapons at my opponent.”
- "'Americans Will Die': F-35s Fatally Flawed from Production to Battlefield". sputniknews.com. Retrieved October 12, 2018.
- Fusciello, Zak. "Pierre Sprey — Made in the Shade".
- Appearances on C-SPAN
- Pierre Sprey, "Countering a Warsaw Pact Blitz", in Proceedings of the Seminar on Antitank Warfare, May 25–26, 1978 (discusses design considerations for future antitank aircraft)
- Pierre Sprey, Combat Effectiveness Considerations in Designing Close Support Aircraft(n.d., 1970s) (slide presentation)