Home » Air » Air Force » Pentagon: Slow F-35 Production

Pentagon: Slow F-35 Production

by John Reed on December 2, 2011

First International F-35 Rolls Out of the Factory

So, the interwebs are abuzz this morning with news that the man in charge of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program wants to slow down production — and therefore deliveries of the jet.

The slowdown is needed to install fixes to numerous structural cracks and “hot spots” that have been found in the plane over the last year, Vice Adm. David Venlet, JSF program manager, told AOL Defense. The work needed to remedy these cracks could add $3 to $5 million to the cost of each jet.

Keep in mind that the Pentagon just reduced the latest F-35 purchase by five jets, so this news comes on top of that.

Venlet insists that these cracks aren’t an immediate safety issue, they would however cause the airframes to be pulled from service well before their planned 8,000 flight-hour lifetimes.

Here’s key quote from Venlet where he says that ‘heavy learning’ is still happening with the program — I have to say that many were hoping Lockheed and the F-35 office were beyond the heavy learning years:

“The analyzed hot spots that have arisen in the last 12 months or so in the program have surprised us at the amount of change and at the cost,” Vice Adm. David Venlet said in an interview at his office near the Pentagon. “Most of them are little ones, but when you bundle them all up and package them and look at where they are in the airplane and how hard they are to get at after you buy the jet, the cost burden of that is what sucks the wind out of your lungs. I believe it’s wise to sort of temper production for a while here until we get some of these heavy years of learning under our belt and get that managed right. And then when we’ve got most of that known and we’ve got the management of the change activity better in hand, then we will be in a better position to ramp up production.”

These hot spots were found after the Pentagon and Lockheed examined the plane following the discovery of cracks in an important bulkhead on the F-35B last year. He apparently wouldn’t say how much production should be slowed.

The big question now becomes, what will a production slowdown to to the cost of each airplane at a time when many JSF buyers are looking to cut billions from their defense budgets? The second question is, what does this mean for the existing fighter fleets that are/were supposed to be replaced by F-35s sometime this decade?

Yes, the F-35 has had a very good year of flight testing but, as Venlet points out, overall testing still nowhere near close to finished. F-35 customers have got to be wondering what additional surprises will come along:

Flight testing of the F-35, though going extremely well lately, is only 18 percent complete, Venlet said. As of Nov. 29, 1,364 test flights had been flown — 896 of them in the past 10 months, despite two stoppages of a couple of weeks each to fix problems found by flying. Under a new program baseline created after the JSF project breached cost limits under the Nunn-McCurdy law, about 7,700 hours of flight tests are planned. “That’s a lot,” Venlet said, adding that number will grow if more problems are found.

Fatigue testing has barely begun, Venlet said. The CTOL variant’s fatigue testing is about 20 percent complete; the CV variant has not started yet. For the STOVL variant, fatigue testing was halted at 6 percent last year and has not resumed after a crack in a large bulkhead in the wing was found, requiring a major redesign of that part.

Here’s the article.

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{ 118 comments… read them below or add one }

pcb December 2, 2011 at 11:08 am

When the original project winner was announced, there was a lot of questioning of the Lockheed choice. Yeah, the jet looked meaner and had some the required design aspects but there was great concern as to whether the design choice by the DOD reflected their desire for an affordable stealthy jet. The Boeing VTOL design was considered too antiquated, but in Boeing's defense, they sought to provide the necessary technology based upon the most proven designs. In hindsight, given the troubles with this jet and the escalating costs, they may have been the better selection

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Mark O'Connell December 2, 2011 at 12:38 pm

Nope, and here's why. Each plane was of composite design – this is still a new area and ‘heavy learning’ would be shared by either makers . The major difference in design being the VTOL variant lift fan. Also understand that the inlet to the Boeing model still needed designing to accomadate the variable intel. So any delay not attributed to said lift fan or intel problem with the Boeing model would be potentially shared between the two platforms.

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tiger December 2, 2011 at 4:24 pm

The tilt nozzle though was a simpler way to do things.

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PMI December 4, 2011 at 4:15 pm

The 32 team was also having major issues with the all composite wing & wing box.

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PMI December 3, 2011 at 2:22 pm

The only people who possibly questioned the decision were Boeing execs …and then only publicly.

The X-32 was beset by problems and would have required a major redesign to even get to the pre-production stage.

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Pete December 2, 2011 at 11:18 am

Why does the Pentagon have to pay to fix these planes? Isn't this a cost Lockheed should pony up given that the product they delivered doesn't meet the specs required by the customer (8,000 flight hours)?????

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Ben December 2, 2011 at 11:42 am

That makes too much sense.

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Mark O'Connell December 2, 2011 at 12:39 pm

This is why it is called developing.

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Michael December 2, 2011 at 11:49 am

Maybe the original fly-off competions need to be a little more involved to work these things out earlier so we can get production started earlier. And who knows, with such kinks worked out earlier, maybe our overall knowledge base will grow…

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Black Owl December 2, 2011 at 12:49 pm

Why am I not surprised?

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crackedlenses December 2, 2011 at 4:09 pm

Because you've been against the whole shebang from day one……

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chaos0xomega December 2, 2011 at 12:51 pm

During WW2 and the first half of the cold war, the US manufactured thousands of military aircraft every year, and some of those planes are still flying today (B-52, F-4 for example). Today the US struggles to manufacture a few dozen such aircraft per year, and even then they are faulty and not what we paid billions for (F-22 OBOGS failures, etc.). Where is the accountability here? What is causing the erosion of the American industrial base? I understand that modern aircraft are many many times more complex a system than something like an original production B-52 or F-4, but are they really that much more complex that we have difficulty building them? And if so, SHOULD we be building them?

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Black Owl December 2, 2011 at 1:02 pm

I can answer all four of your questions: There is no accountability. The obsession with the brand new high techno-whizz-bang and lack of an interest in what's proven and effective is what is corroding the American industrial base. We don't know why these aircraft are so complex, but we are willing to spend billions finding out when upgrading our current aircraft would be cheap and get the job done just as well. Lastly, oh my NO WE SHOULDN'T.

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Riceball December 2, 2011 at 3:05 pm

I an answer your question as to why these planes are so complex, progress. If we didn't continue to strive to produce newer and better we'd probably still be flying Sopwith Camels today. If we didn't try to continually push the envelope in aircraft designs it's doubtful that we would have been able to control the skies like we have since WW II.

The biggest difference between what's happening now and what came before is that we're trying to make a generational leap in design instead of making just an incremental change. What we're trying to do now is not just make another plane in the Century series, what's going on now is more like the switch from the prop planes of WW II to the first jets of the Korean War. Making big jumps like that will inevitably result in some teething pains; are there things that we can do minimize them or defer the cost to the manufacturer? Sure, but even doing that bumps in the road will inevitable and there's no way to completely eliminate or mitigate them.

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fromage December 3, 2011 at 10:47 pm

Does revolutionary improvement meet the need? Is incremental development wholly unsuited to the task at hand? To make a hyperbolic argument: if the Sopwith Camel suitably met the needs of today's users, we'd be irresponsible to NOT fly them. I understand that maintenance of an industrial base and employment of semi-fungible S&T workers is a legitimate need of the customer, but let's not start down the "technological development is inevitable and necessary" or "revolutionary trumps evolutionary" paths; we're ostensibly adults, and should be making decisions without appeal to an undue amount of irrationality and unexamined faith.

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crackedlenses December 4, 2011 at 9:12 am

OK, fine; if we cancel JSF and buy more F-15/16/18s, will they be able to compete against whatever Russia, China, and whoever else are building? Even if we don't go to war with the producer, you can bet they'll sell to the guys we're fighting…..

tiger December 2, 2011 at 4:30 pm

More American kids go to college to make Spring break videos than sit through a Calculus 2 or Fluid Dynamics class to earn a BS.

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fromage December 3, 2011 at 10:49 pm

And about as many go to sit through Calc 2 & Fluids these days as went through during the 40s-60s, roughly. Your statement is irrelevant, distracting, and unclear in its agenda.

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Chimp December 4, 2011 at 11:10 pm

El Tirador said ” There are a lot of living Israeli pilots who drove the A-4 against the latest Mirage’s and became ”

They may have become aces, but not flying Skyhawks, which achieved a grand total of 2 air to air victories with the IAF (neither against Mirage products).

Still, it makes a nice story.

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Cranky Observer December 3, 2011 at 2:48 pm

= = = During WW2 and the first half of the cold war, the US manufactured thousands of military aircraft every year, and some of those planes are still flying today (B-52, F-4 for example). Today the US struggles to manufacture a few dozen such aircraft per year, and even then they are faulty and not what we paid billions for (F-22 OBOGS failures, etc.). Where is the accountability here? What is causing the erosion of the American industrial base? = = =

It is a feature, not a bug. A substantial portion of US military procurement is a welfare program. Neverending program extensions and price increases keep the money flowing to "deserving" recipients.

Cranky

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El tirador December 4, 2011 at 6:42 pm

I think a portion of the problem is systematic. As early as the 1970's much more DoD funding was spent on flying testbeds to gather data and suitability of aircraft design. Looking at the YF16 and YF17 program and comparing it to the YF22 vs. YF23 or the JSF,,there are some stark and critical distinctions between how the competitive bidding and flyoffs where run. I am not certain the current model for selection really gave us the lowest risk, most cost effective result.

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Tad December 2, 2011 at 1:07 pm

Can't American industry get anything right anymore!? Why does it seem like our engineering ability has gone to heck? I'm thinking of some military planes, some ships, etc…

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Dfens December 5, 2011 at 8:51 am

You pay more for a contractor to drag out development and jack the cost of the program through the roof, and then you blame "engineering"? What's wrong isn't rocket science. It's friggen basic economics. Try paying the contractors more to provide you with good, innovative weapons they provide on schedule and on budget and see what happens. Americans during the Cold War were smart enough to do this and we beat the USSR's ass. I guess we just don't understand that capitalism crap anymore.

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Thinking_ExUSAF December 5, 2011 at 10:56 am

LOL! Want to REALLY get depressed. . . . We went from a modified Jupiter IRBM (about 100000 lbs of thrust) for Shepard's Mercury launch in May, 1961 to the Saturn V/Apollo IV launch (7,700,000 lbs of thrust) in Nov, 1967. We did that basically on "slide rule" engineering and the "enlightened" program managment techniques and personalities developed in Penemunde. Today, with all of the advanced computers and superior program management, we take 30 years to produce an "evolutionary" fighter aircraft or ship with only marginal performance improvements.

Unfortunately, it would be very wrong to blame it all on "American Industry", but I DO think that there are a lot of folk, in a lot of places, that might need to look for some "sack cloth".

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Dfens December 6, 2011 at 8:07 am

When you pay a contractor more to fail, what do you think they do, promote the best and brightest, or promote those who promise to be loyal above all else and not rock the boat? Before we paid profit on development we promoted the best and brightest, but now it is the latter group that gets the promotion. The best and brightest get the shaft because they threaten the ability of the defense contractors to drag the program out and jack up the cost.

You pay these contractors more to screw you, and then wonder why you got screwed. You pay them more to be stupid, and you wonder where the next Kelly Johnson is. Is it really that hard to figure out?

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Thinking_ExUSAF December 6, 2011 at 9:27 am

To a degree, I agree with you. The "model" is broke, but, honestly. . . . we may be so far down the pipe that we no longer know how to run with any other model.

On the contractor side, we are obliged to "match" the customer's PMO, basically man-for-man, even if we see more efficient ways of doing business. Everyone on the PMO side must have a "counterpart", else the contractor is "non-responsive". So. . . each "make-work" gets mirrored (and billed) on the contractor side. Having worked both sides of the fence (currently GS), the contractor WILL comply, and charge more (for the man-hours for non-functional "counterparts"), and then tack on the profit for that extra billing.

Change has to start somewhere, and. . . undeniably, the PMOs have the stick! Incentivize the change in attitude and implementation, and let that nasty profit motivation kick in again, but let it kick in for the better (unless you happen to be one of the strap hangers and empire builders !). Since those organizational efficiency decisions are usually hard and unpopular, that first probative step could be a starting point for other hard but necessary change decisions, and once the ball is rolling. . . . . . . .

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Dfens December 6, 2011 at 4:47 pm

It's never too late. Americans have a phenominal ability to create. You see it in the private sector every day. You see it so often, you take it for granted. Even in the defense industry such as it is today, the greatest privilege left to me is the fact that I get to work with so many bright and talented individuals. The saddest part is related to that in the fact that these people are tragically under utilized. We've got the people. Now get the US government out of our way and we'll kick ass again.

BigRick December 2, 2011 at 1:27 pm

I'm sorry folks but this is it for for.

Even though I've been a luke warm supporter of the F-35, and we do need a new platform, this latest news of adding 3-5 million to the already ridiculous price will be the straw that broke the camel's back.

I can no longer support this effort. This program needs to be shut down and Lockhead needs to eat the cost for incompetence and poor management. No only that, but Lockhead needs to pay back the taxpayers every dime spend on this program and maybe even some punitive damages for wasting 10 years of our National Defense time and effort and for royally screwing all three services-especially the Marine Corp.

We need a new platform but we no longer need Lockhead

We need to start over (with a fixed price contract) with another manufacture.

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tiger December 2, 2011 at 4:37 pm

Gordo Cooper: "Do you boys know what makes this bird go up? Funding makes this bird go up."
Gus Grissom: "That's right. No bucks… no Buck Rogers."
Gordo Cooper: "And uh, the press over there… They all wanna see Buck Rogers."
Deke Slayton: "And that's us… Buck Rogers."

The Right Stuff-1986

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Appia December 3, 2011 at 3:18 pm

Clawing that much cash from Lockheed would likely break the company. It would need infusions of cash from the shareholders, which might or might not be forthcoming. If not, the US government will have to supply the cash and receive the new shares, effectively nationalizing the company. I'm not saying that's a bad idea, but I don't want to hear any whining about "Obama" and "Socialism" if it happens.

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BigRick December 3, 2011 at 11:38 pm

Sometimes the medicine is bitter. But you have to administer it you expect to get better. A lot of the military industry is like gangrene right now, that's eating away the body (taxpayers). If you want the body to live to have to cut off the infected parts. You can feel sorry for these company's that continue to screw us over and over and over and over and over…..I know these are harsh words (coming from a vet) but if we continue down this path we won't have a military any more. We'll just have one very expensive plane, tank, and ship. We need guys like Kelly Johnson again running these companies.

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crackedlenses December 4, 2011 at 9:15 am

And if we don't have what we need someone overseas is going to catch on, and next thing you know we'll be getting hit by planes a full gen ahead of ours, which as the Syrians learned in the Beka Valley Turkey Shoot, no amount of numbers will save you if the enemy has better planes and better pilots. In our case, we'd probably break even…..

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Musson1 December 2, 2011 at 1:33 pm

If you want to fly faster, higher and pull more G's – you have to pay for it. And, it ain't cheap!

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tiger December 2, 2011 at 4:38 pm

See Reply above…..

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Dan December 3, 2011 at 1:13 am

The F-35 doesn't fly faster, higher, or pull more Gs.

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SMSgt Mac December 3, 2011 at 1:27 am

No it will just kill you before you know it is there. Gawd it's amateur hour around here today.

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JRL December 3, 2011 at 9:04 am

"No it will just kill you before you know it is there": Thus doth Sarge solemnly and faithfully recite one of the most sacred litanies of the JSF catechism…

Here's what someone who was far less "amateur" than the wide-eyed congegation of the High LM Church of the Sacred JSF had to say about that mindset:

"Faith: Belief without evidence in what is told by one who speaks without knowledge, of things without parallel."

~ Ambrose Bierce

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fromage December 4, 2011 at 9:50 am

You're my new DefTech hero.

SMSgt Mac December 6, 2011 at 11:00 pm

Awww. JRL having failed miserably at 'smart' makes a fey attempt at 'clever'.
Let's elevate the argument shall we? What exactly do I offer (or have offered) that I "expect belief in' without evidence, much less that of which 'I do not have knowledge'?
You don't see any claims of 'knowledge' above – only my suspicions of lack thereof in another. I challenge you to find an assertion of fact that I make anywhere on the web that I either do not, have not OR cannot back up with evidence/references found in the public domain. I believe you will find I express and such thoughts as 'opinions' otherwise.
I doubt you'll take up the challenge–though I suspect you have plenty of time on your hands for thre endeavor..
G'night All

jumper December 2, 2011 at 1:43 pm

I think the problem is there is the perception that every other plane we've ever built entered service and started kicking Nazi/Commie a$$ right out of the production hanger. The truth is that EVERY plane has had development issues, some quite serious and far worse than the F-35. (The P-51 wasn't worth the cost of production when it entered service) But, the internet didn't exist back then so there weren't half a million "experts" telling everyone why it's such a disaster. While the accounting practices are a little shady due to scope creep, DoD incompetence, and Lockheed's lack of accountability, the actual technical development of the jet isn't even close to the worst we've ever seen.

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Michael December 2, 2011 at 2:23 pm

Would the worst be the A-12?

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tiger December 2, 2011 at 4:42 pm

Oh, there are far worse projects. The F7U Cutlass for example.

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Thinking_ExUSAF December 5, 2011 at 10:41 am

Depends on your defnition for "worst". The A-12 certainly is in the running if costs enter the equation. The F-111A (although eventually turned into a very good aircraft!), the B-70, or the B-58 might good candidates for the worst as well (at least in the modern era), and all for different reasons!

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SMSgt Mac December 3, 2011 at 1:28 am

The Barling Bomber

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joe December 5, 2011 at 9:20 am

TSR2 (okay, British, but we're in the programme too)

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Thinking_ExUSAF December 5, 2011 at 10:44 am

To keep the Commonwealth in play, how about the Avro Arrow? It was, as best as can be told, a completely outstanding aircraft that was slaughtered on the altar of partisan politics. That has GOT to to qualify it as a candidate for the "worst" program!

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Roy Smith December 2, 2011 at 1:47 pm

You really have to wonder if the new weapons that Russia & China are putting out,even if they are crap,will have any competition anymore from the West,including the U.S. Our NATO European allies & European Union leaders are making “draconian” cuts to their defense. We can’t afford new weapons or to even recapitalize/reset the weapons we already have. For those who say to cancel the F-35 & buy F/A-18 Super Hornets,can we even afford to do that(buy more Super Hornets)?

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tiger December 2, 2011 at 4:44 pm

Well Sir Teleprompter said he was going to "reset our relations" with Russia. Hows that working out???

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kim December 2, 2011 at 7:57 pm

We could buy Gripens, too. Nowhere near as pricey….

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BigRick December 2, 2011 at 1:50 pm

p.s. here's what I recommend, the most important thing here is quantity, we need to get the numbers back up

For the Air Force,
-explore the F-15 SE version
-SLEP all F-16s to latest version

For the Navy
-continue buying latest Super Hornet versions but explore the new proposals
-accelerate X-47B development, put two squadrons on each carrier by 2015

For the Marines
-it was a good move to buy the slightly used British Harriers, but they should SLEP
each and every one of Harriers to get as much life as possible, hopefully for another 10 years

For all three
-invest in next gen AMMRAM that has much longer range and higher speed-kind of like what the Phoenix missile used to be. This new one needs 70+ mile range and Mach 5+ speed.
-continue to invest in advanced radar, microwave, laser and other technologies

Gen 5 aircraft
-DO NOT attempt to build another single aircraft for all three services-that's is folly. The requirement for each service are too different.
-If you do, build a Navy version first (a la F-4 style) that can be used by the other services later
-set a firm fixed price and delivery
-we need to get away from the idea of quality will be over quantity. We need a 5th gen fighter but not at the expense of numbers.

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Roy Smith December 3, 2011 at 1:38 am

And where is the money going to come from to do all of that?

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Commisar12 December 3, 2011 at 9:36 pm

all of those SLEPs are VERY expensive, and you are still flying jets that are 25 years old

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PHS3 December 2, 2011 at 2:26 pm

I tend to agree with BigRick, however quality over quantity is a good thing, but You can't build a quality aircraft, with total supremacy, which can also cover all demands from all 3 services. And You can't expect Your allies to willingly pay for capabilities, which will never ever be of use to them, like Denmark (where I live). We would never be part of a serious first strike on anyone – not even the Swedes or the Germans (this part is a joke of course) – but we sure like the thought of US being able to do it, if necessary. And we are proudly working together with US in Afghanistan and other places, thank You.

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Riceball December 2, 2011 at 3:12 pm

While I agree with you overall I do believe that there is a fine balance in the quantity vs. equality equation. While I definitely feel that the old Soviet philosophy of quantity having a quality of its own is the wrong one I do feel that you need to have a certain minimum amount of a quality weapons system in order to be effective. Take the F-22 for instance, sure it may be the equal of 10 of any other fighter out there but with so few even one means a pretty big loss in our numbers and would certainly hurt more than say 10 Chinese fighters would.

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PHS3 December 3, 2011 at 6:38 am

Back in 82, the Israeli Air Force fought it out with the Syrian Air Force over the Beeka Valley. Within a few days Syria reportedly lost 85 aircraft (mainly MIG21's and 23's) against 0 Israeli Aircraft, mainly F16's and F15's. This is how effective quality – overall – can be over quantity. But agreed, You need a certain minimum number to make Your quality superiority useful.

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Stratege December 3, 2011 at 7:49 am

MiG-21s is the second generation fighter jet and MiG-23 is the third generation while F-16/F-15 is 4th generation.

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Chimp December 5, 2011 at 2:15 am

It's a good point, but (IMHO) it talks more to selection and training standards than the quality of kit.

General Eitan, "Training is of greater importance and significance than the means of warfare, the weaponry systems, and the technology."

And…

General Eitan echoed this attitude, complaining that although the IAF encountered the MiG-25 during the Lebanon War, it was difficult to assess the aircraft's capabilities because "the Syrians don't know how to fly or operate the MiG, 25. If we could have been sitting in a MiG-25, nobody could have touched us."
http://www.airpower.au.af.mil/airchronicles/apj/a

Finally, to (slightly) misquote Napoleon, "The moral is to the physical as three to one". Of course, it helps to create a moral edge if the guys driving the kit think it's the best thing out there. That's all part of it.

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Lance December 2, 2011 at 3:16 pm

Not a BIG deal the USAF is upgraded its F-16 to extend there life for a decade. So it'll be fine to slow its replacement with F-35s too. The main deal is both F-15s and F-16s will be upgraded so they be in good shape till over 2021 so it may take that long to get enough F-35 to replace F-16s anyway.

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Black Owl December 2, 2011 at 5:13 pm

I for one would like to take this opportunity to again remind everyone that the Super Hornet International Road Map is highly capable and has a performance level near that of the F-35, but relies on everything that has been proven to work in the past and is extremely cheap at roughly the price of 1/2 an F-35B or F-35C. It makes perfect sense to buy and use those, but obviously too much sense for the defense industry.
http://www.boeing.com/AeroIndia2011/pdf/Aero_Indi

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tiger December 2, 2011 at 6:08 pm

India has passed on your Hornet. http://www.aviationweek.com/aw/generic/story_chan

Switzerland is buying the Saab. http://news.yahoo.com/switzerland-picks-gripen-je

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Tee December 2, 2011 at 9:07 pm

So should we

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Black Owl December 2, 2011 at 10:53 pm

That's matter of preference and has nothing to do with the capabilities of the aircraft.

The Saab is a much lower performing aircraft that the SHIRM. However, it does have a price tag that matches its capabilities and in that respect it is still a good buy. It is a much better buy than the JSF.

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Elijah December 2, 2011 at 5:25 pm

An Airplane Admirer, Jestering Jets, Love'em but am afraid of''em.

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tiger December 2, 2011 at 5:32 pm

Slow production? That production floor is a ghost town now.

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Valcan December 2, 2011 at 5:54 pm

See this is my problem with the Joint buys. To many demands on one airframe and it becomes so expensive and complicated that you no longer can buy the 1000 you need so you buy just 300. And the next generation just 200. This continues until someone fixes it or the fleet becomes so expensive and precious that war is avoided many times to disasterous consequences.

Look at the F-8 crusader. That is how to run a program and it was no less revolutionary that the F-22 or F-35. Later it became the A-7 Corsair.

S/VTOVL is one of those things that is to airframe intesive for it to make sense to use the same airframe.

The F-35 is more of a political program.

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mustangdaren December 2, 2011 at 6:47 pm

Modify the F-15 to SE specs with F-22 engines, modify the Super Hornet with F-22 engines, modify the F-16 with the F-35 engine and now you have three planes with super cruise capability. Use missile tech to fill in the 5th gen gaps or unmanned aircraft. F-35 is a joke, performance is no better than what we have already and it has no super cruise or thrust vectoring. We would have been better off developing the F-22 and increasing it's numbers to drive down cost because in the end it would be cheaper than the F-35.

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USkilledbyCapitalism December 3, 2011 at 6:32 am

The F16 with the F35 engine would be incapable of super cruise. No F35 can super cruise.

Putting F-22 engines into an F15 with SE specs would be the same as redesigning the plane from scratch. Build more F22s instead. They will come down in price and do the missions the F15SE was not designed to do. The only reason to SLEP F15s to an F15SE is to increase numbers of operable stealth aircraft.

The F35 is a bad joke. In retrospect, Congress/Pentagon should have navalized the F-22, Then cannibalized the ground attack features of the F-35 into the F22. The Marines get naval F22s and refurbed F16s as bomb trucks. The irony is that producing the F22 in numbers makes it just as expensive as buying F35s. The utter failure of the F35 was that it was supposed to be SIGNIFICANTLY cheaper to build and operate than an F22.

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tiger December 3, 2011 at 8:52 am

Which leaves them operating from Carriers or a friendly land base, Not LHA's. It also assumes the F-22 works. Which for most of the year, it has not.

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duuude December 3, 2011 at 12:08 pm

The F-16XL could supercruise all those years ago, and it didn't need an F-35 engine.

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Kski December 2, 2011 at 7:31 pm

Simple answer to this on going issue. Tell the manufacture this. YOU HAVE ONE YEAR TO MAKE THE F-35 LIGHTING II PROGRAM READY FOR FULL SCALE PRODUCTION, IF YOU DO NOT MEET THIS REQUIREMENT, WE WILL DROP THE ENTIRE PROGRAM.

Short, Sweet, to the point and VERY DIRECT.

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William C. December 3, 2011 at 3:22 am

Why is every somewhat lengthy comment I write deleted?

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William C. December 3, 2011 at 3:22 am

Automatically I mean, is there a word limit? People like FFB and Byron Skinner used to get away with insanely long comments.

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Valcan December 3, 2011 at 7:07 am

No clue has done that to me before.

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Dfens December 5, 2011 at 8:59 am

There is a character limit. 2000, I think. Sometimes you have to split stuff up.

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Hunter78 December 3, 2011 at 11:50 am

Abandon the manned fighter/attack aircraft concept completely. Commit to an unmanned aircraft paradigm. Much cheaper, higher performance, larger numbers, no lost pilots.

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duuude December 3, 2011 at 12:06 pm

"numerous structural cracks"

What the hell happened to "value for money"?

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Valcan December 3, 2011 at 1:30 pm

Unmanned aircraft cheaper? LOL CHEAPER!
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_Atomics_MQ-9

No they are not cheaper neither are they worth a damn agaisnt a manned opponent. The reason Drones used so much now is Endurance, cost of training, cost of maintanence, and no pilots to risk.

High performance Manned fighters are the future for atleast the next 50yrs atleast. I am a geek i read all the books but i KNOW the pple who know war. And the technology. The reason the US has commited to so many drones is the above and inaddition to something else. Over half the DoD budget is spent on people. Western soldiers are EXPENSIVE.

The US needs for low tech needs like the fight in afghanistan simply a crop duster or such with alot of loiter time and some decent payload that is easy, cheap and reliable. For around 6 mil each or so you can get a flight of AT-802U with a payload of 9,000 lbs. Reapers is 3,000lbs.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Air_Tractor_AT-802

So no outside of fantasies the Drones are not what is really needed.

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Commisar12 December 3, 2011 at 9:35 pm

the problem is that it is SLOW and powered by a propeller. You simply cannot justify buying such a single mission (COIN) oriented aircraft these days.

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Valcan December 4, 2011 at 5:55 pm

Yes yes you can. Its whats needed for COIN. Long range and loiter time compared to any modern fighter.

A man in the plane has much better situational awarness than any drone. They are cheaper and more robust. You can buy more than 20 of those for the price of a single F-35A. So cut about 10 F-35's and but those. Done.

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Hunter78 December 3, 2011 at 3:29 pm

In dogfights pulling G's is often the deciding factor. UAV's can easily out-perform manned.

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Michael December 3, 2011 at 3:54 pm

In one sense, yes they can; on the other hand, if a UAV is in a tight enough turn, my understanding is that the signal can be temporarily broken or lost, which could easily turn the tables in a dogfight.

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Valcan December 3, 2011 at 4:23 pm

Except there is no UAV which can FLY unmanned air-air. NONE. And even say you made one that could do fly even remotly as well as a manned aircraft the cost of the thing would then be about 2-3 times the cost of the next manned fighter. Would also require alot of down time to do maintanence.

You cannot fly a UCAV into combat with a human controler they simply have SHIT for situational awarness. Add to the fact that humans retuinly come up with new ways of compensating and such and ways of beating even the best weapon and armor.

For instance if you send your super ucav agaisnt say a flight of F-18E/F super hornets and then a Flight of F-22's comes burning in So here is a problem what does your 150mil dollar drone do then? IT can't see the enemy. So it dies. Or you recall it. Or what happens when a Growler starts filling the air with noise?

Thats the thing. Many idea's sound perfect until they meet nasty dirty reality. Then its the pilots, grunts, drivers etc who pay not the generals, admirals, or the Planners.

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itfunk December 5, 2011 at 7:26 am

Ucavs are a classic disruptive technology, too cheap and not fun enough for the incumbents so it is relegated to secondary roles for which they are marginally suited. Most likely it will be the Chinese who will field the first air to air ucavs.

The fact is that air to air combat is the easiest by far environment for autonomous vehicles. It is the least cluttered, has the best transmission and is the simplest to navigate.

The idea that a ucav has to be tethered to a human pilot is simply an artifact of the role of our drones being ground support a far more complex environment. And the only reason they are doing ground support is because the airforce doesn't want the job. If general atomics had built an air to air drone we would have no drones at all because the airforce would never have bought any no matter how good they were.

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joe December 5, 2011 at 9:28 am

It's also an artefact of international arms treaties. The moment you have an autonomous AAUCAV, you have a weapons system that can use lethal force against other aircraft without a human in the loop.

That puts it under the same treaties as mines, motion-sensor-triggered machineguns, etc, etc, which are *extremely* restricted.

As to the capability of AAUCAV platforms; there are enough old fighters modified into target drones. It wouldn't be hard to put this repeated claim to the test – put the notional combat management system in charge of the drone and make the test shoot more of a challenge…

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blight December 5, 2011 at 1:44 pm

Then a lot would depend on semantic interpretation. Missiles are activated and fired by human hand and many are fire-and-forget from there, but these are not regulated in the same fashion. The semantic way around it might be developing UAV aircraft carriers that carry drones near to target and "fire" them at targets to execute objectives and return to base or ditch by flying into a target at high speed. Does that make them missiles or autonomous systems?

Thinking_ExUSAF December 5, 2011 at 10:36 am

One thing, aside from the situational awareness issues with UAVs, is the dynamic nature of A-A combat. When you are attacking a ground target, things tend to happen rather sedately, EVEN when the ground target is moving at 60mph. In Air-to-air combat, certainly in the high-G "dogfight" that we always hear about, things happen in fractions of a second, and the system that does not react in time dies. If I have a UAV on the end of a satcom link, the lag in the information getting to the pilot and his response getting back to the UAV is limited by the speed of light and the transmission lags through the satcom equipment. Toss in a "control loop lag" of at least 22,500 miles to GEO X 4 trips / 186000 miles per second or rounded out, 0.5 seconds, and you have a dead UAV or at least a terminal case of PIO. Make it "fully autonomous" and if it works you have the "Terminator", and if it fails, you have the news story of the "killer UAV downing the 747!"

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blight December 5, 2011 at 1:46 pm

The autonomous system has no more ambiguous IFF issues than an aircraft firing at BVR targets without positive identification (or in the CAS context, firing at targets on the ground without properly verifying their identity).

We /still/ have blue-on-blue from CAS incidents, and some come from putting in the wrong GPS coords and others come from false-positive identification of targets (shooting a target thought to be enemy, but actually friendly), mistakes made on the human end.

War is messy, and we accept the risks of fratricide from manned systems-why not the unmanned as well?

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Thinking_ExUSAF December 5, 2011 at 3:22 pm

I might just agree with you on the issues with BVR engagements, but.. . there is that little issue about "visual" before shooting that has been with us for a LONG time. I would also refer you to the US Army experience with lethal, semi-autonomous ground vehicles in SWA. Suffice to say that I heard that they were NOT impressed, and the ON/OFF button worked excellently after only a few rounds!!

At least you didnt quibble with the 186,000 miles per second issue and control loop lag! :-)

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Jeannie December 3, 2011 at 5:23 pm

Glad there is someone over there in the Pentagon who is slowing down. Power gone mad is what is usually over there; men and women asking Congress for their last penny and they get it. I'm tortured by a Navy laser that stabs, hammers and cramps my body. M67854-04-C-5074. Order it from the Marine Corps FOIA. You will see the five sided building wants to take over the law enforcement system of our country, including the cop, court house downtown, jails, prisons, FBI, and state law enforcement agencies. What is happening to me is done by the Pentagon's Mayport Naval Station helicopters and there is not one thing any of the above agencies of the government can do about it. We are a nation under seige by the Pentagon and the seige is silent, torturous and deadly. The weapon can kill and leave no evidence or it can torture.

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Dfens December 5, 2011 at 9:13 am

Take your pills, Jeannie. There are plenty of things you should be worried about. No sense in making life tougher than it already is.

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Commisar12 December 3, 2011 at 9:39 pm

Well, apart from this site being RABIDLY F-35, sh*t happens, NO jet has had flawless testing and development. I mean, look at the F-14. it was almost killed and the Navy had to beg for it. Or the F-111, or the P-51, or the B-1, or the B-2. it is way too late to cancel the program, and it seems that only the B model seem to be having this issue.

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itfunk December 5, 2011 at 7:35 am

F-35 advocate like to point to other failures as somehow making the F-35 failure seem acceptable.

only 10% of the cost of the F-35 has been spent but its too late to save the other 90% is it ?

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Commisar12 December 5, 2011 at 2:54 pm

Allright, but what is the other option? keep building 30 year old designs with updated radar and avionics? Those designs have hit their peak. They are NOT stealthy, and the F-35's sensor suite is incredible. You can't stuff the F-35's radar or internal laser designator/IR sensors into a F-18 or an F-16. The F-35 program has been horribly managed, but it really is back on track now, and there simply isn't any other option.

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Oudin December 4, 2011 at 5:33 am

I think F-35 must be another engine not only from pratt and whitney like roll royce and GE, may be first cost opportuneted overrun made headache but benefit advantage in future for saving money for replacing aging aircraft like F-16,F-15 and F-18.

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FtD December 4, 2011 at 7:58 pm

Russians discarded the Mig29 and concentrates on Su27 and made a success out of it so why can't americans learn from them, take the already in service F22 platform, develop it further, export to other allies and get some money out from it?

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Roland December 7, 2011 at 1:25 am

Not a good news. We needed these jets for defense in case Iran, Russia, China, and North Korea attack us.

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Tee December 2, 2011 at 9:11 pm

So just cancel the contract for non performance and being late, DONE and OVER!

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William C. December 3, 2011 at 2:57 am

And what the hell does that fix? Nothing. All three services are still left without new fighters that offer the F-35's capabilities.

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Dfens December 5, 2011 at 8:44 am

You can cancel the program, but then the USAF loses its opportunity to get a new fighter, the people who work in the procurement bureacracy lose their jobs, the people who work for the contractor on the F-35 program all lose their jobs, and you lose whatever you've invested in the program up to that point. At the same time, the contractor has made money off of every hour they've billed to the government. With this kind of "profit on development" contract, they've got the government over a barrel. They're damned if they cancel the program for failure to perform and they're damned if they continue the program because things will only get worse. It's a stupid business model followed only by the US government, because no one else can afford to be that stupid.

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itfunk December 3, 2011 at 8:27 am

All three services already have aircraft that are better that the F-35

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Black Owl December 3, 2011 at 12:57 pm

I should also mention that I live on a military base and I know a few Super Hornet pilots here on TAD as well as several other pilots from different airframes that teach classes here. My entire opinion isn't based of J.A. Stout's book, nor is it based off Boeing Marketing material. I've read several other sources such as the FY budgets, Lockheed's marketing material, articles outside both arms companies, military magazines, other military books written by combat experienced pilots ("Screaming Eagles" about the making of Top Gun and fighting in Vietnam is my second favorite), and several other sources that are escaping my mind at the moment. I've also asked Super Hornet pilots for their opinion on the JSF directly.

Other than the friend you mentioned earlier I also fail to see your legitimate expertise either. Like you, I ask because I don't see any evidence of it.

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crackedlenses December 4, 2011 at 9:10 am

If you're indeed right, then how come no one else is saying it; how come none of your pilot buddies are posting in support? I'm serious; if you are relaying the sentiment of the pilots themselves, why haven't they spoken for themselves yet?…..

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Black Owl December 4, 2011 at 10:24 am

I never said I was relaying the sentiments of the pilots themselves. This is my own opinion. I've gotten mixed reactions from the Super Hornet pilots I've talked to. Some say they think the JSF is entirely unnecessary when we can make reliable combat effective Super Hornets like "oats and cookies." Some of them say that it is crucial to the future of Combat Naval Aviation. All the pilots I've talked to seem to agree that if the JSF (I think they were all referring to the F-35C btw) can do what Lockheed says it can do, then it will be a great aircraft. One pilot told me those exact words then added "if they ever get off the production line in numbers that can be useful." One former Super Hornet pilot who went to work for Lockheed Martin visited my base and advertised the F-35 simulator to us and even let me fly it for 10 minutes. He told me that he would not want to fly the Super Hornet after the next ten years seeing the new threats that Russia and China were putting up (this was in 2010)..I asked him about what threats he was referring to and he mentioned Russia and China's new SAM batteries, but never mentioned the PAK-FA like I was expecting. I also had to keep in mind that he was employed by Lockheed and was wearing the Lockheed logo at the time he was talking to me and that may have had an effect on what he was saying. Granted that was a short 10 minutes that I was at the simulator, but I could easily see why people like the F-35 cockpit compared with the Block II Super Hornet cockpit (which I have only experienced through JANE's F/A-18 simulator.) The F-35's glass cockpit is so easy to use. He even talked me through killing two One-29's (for some unknown reason I was not allowed to call the MiG-29's that I had killed in the simulator "MiGs" or "Fulcrums." They were One-29's.)

I think the SHIRM is the answer based off my own research and also because it incorporates most of the things from the JSF that most of the Super Hornet pilots I talked to wanted in their aircraft; such as spherical scanning and a glass cockpit. The only real difference between the SHIRM and the JSF is stealth. The SHIRM has it from the front, but the JSF has it from the front and the sides. I don't think that small advantage for the JSF is worth its price tag. Some pilots agree with me, others have disagreed. I'm not discounting their experience.

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Fluoro Ninja December 20, 2011 at 7:50 am

If the environment in the US is anything similar to the one here in Oz there's buckley's chance of getting a currently serving military pilot to say anything negative, at least on the record, about the JSF. To do so is career suicide.

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El Tirador December 4, 2011 at 5:51 pm

No worries mate. The 4th gen fighters can and will compete nicely with the latest gen. China/Russia jets for a long time to come. Air warfare is about much more complex aspects than just jet to jet parity. Our advanced AWACs, J8/10s, C4I and flight training, etc. still gives our aviators and pilots a huge advantage. Prove it? OK, revisit all the Israeli conflicts since the 1960's. There are a lot of living Israeli pilots who drove the A-4 against the latest Mirage's and became ace's.

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Chimp December 5, 2011 at 2:16 am

Sources or it didn't happen.

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itfunk December 5, 2011 at 7:37 am

The only people who will jump for joy if the F-35 goes into production is Lockheed.

We wont save the 10% that has been spent but that doesn't mean the 90% that hasn't should just be thrown away.

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joe December 5, 2011 at 9:31 am

There has always been a "no, nada, not happening, get lost and stop asking" attitude to F-22 exports from congress, which also doesn't help.

There are other countries who are also depending on F-35 for their future requirements and have sunk not insignificant amounts of their own cash into it.

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FtD December 5, 2011 at 7:36 pm

American pride literally lost them billions of export dollars and also put national guards out of existence. How can USAF and guards share 186 F22? F35 simply can't chase flanker let alone cruise missiles. No matter how advance F35 is, it is still a heavy single engined subsonic plane not suitable for air superiority duty

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joe December 6, 2011 at 3:16 am

If they're essentially a multi-stage missile firing at a pre-programmed target, no (although tactical/strategic missile limitations then apply).

But if they're firing at a pre-programmed set of co-ordinates, they're not autonomous. It's when they reach an area and go "hmmmm…..you!" without asking for permission from anyone that they're autonomous.

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Thinking_ExUSAF December 7, 2011 at 10:05 am

Innovation outside of the DoD sector has brought the "state of the art" for civilian equipment (think iPhones) to the point where you carry in your pocket a ruggedized computer/communications device that is several generations ahead of the latest military communications systems. (Sure, some talk about security issues and the level of ruggedization, but. . . . are those honest and JUSTIFIABLE reasons to avoid the technology, or just excuses for the continued existence of the bureaucracy?)

Once DoD equipment was "leading edge", now its generations behind what can be bought at Walmart (think iPhone, Android, Rhino, etc). Perhaps we should take note of the "principles" that we preach, i.e. "ask for capabilities, do not dictate design implementations" and then get some of those capablities even if they are NIH and dont need a big R&D PEO.

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Dfens December 8, 2011 at 9:00 am

Bingo. You are absolutely right. Capitalism always works. By setting up our defense procurement system the way we have, our capitalist incentives are working against our best interests in weapons development. The solutions to our current problems are not high risk. They are tried and true, and have worked to keep America free for centuries. The high risk anomaly is what we are doing now.

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Thinking_ExUSAF December 8, 2011 at 10:52 am

You and I have disagreed on several different points, but. . . Im thinking that this is one that we could totally support. If the "process" produces failures, the logical move is to change the process, not re-execute and hope for a different outcome. Right now. . . . the process is broke but there are too many people with personal stake in keeping the same ole system going to make it happen gently or without a lot of yelling and screaming. ( I have visions of Lincoln cleaning out the Dept of War at the start of the Civil War, but no idea where such a towering (no pun intended) figure might be in the current political landscape!)

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Thinking_ExUSAF December 8, 2011 at 2:10 pm

The concept of "cost plus" contracts is not inherently BAD; its a method of sharing the risks, and often those risks ARE defined by the customer's overly ambitious requirements. The trick might be to make it something like "75% of costs plus award fee" where the contractor must "do good" and gain a significant portion of the award fee just to break even, but then the award fee would need to end up very sweet for top performance! Id even include very objective, pre-defined thresholds for the award fee evaluation in the RFP. If the contractors think that the thresholds are too stringent, then. . .. they should not bid! :-)

Who can play "chicken" longest. . . I think its the buyer not the seller! :-)

I dont understand the part about fondness for engineers. . . . Most engineers shower almost as often as anybody else! LOL!

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Dfens December 8, 2011 at 2:40 pm

Back in the 1970's and 1980's we did the straight up, "cost plus" contracting with no award fee. There were a different set of problems with that kind of contracting. We produced airplanes plenty fast, but there was a lot of pressure on the design engineers to shun innovation and a huge amount of pressure to under test. As you might recall, often times flying the "A" model of an airplane in those days was nearly a death sentence to a pilot. Many of the kinks would get worked out by the time the "B", "C", and "D" versions came along, but the "A" was generally dangerous.

There again, look at where the profit was. The manufacturer didn't make a profit until they sold production aircraft, so they put lots of pressure on the engineers to cut corners and get to production. In some ways it was better than paying a profit on development, but aircraft costs still escalated rapidly under that kind of contracting and contractor bureacracies were still large, even though not nearly so large as those of today's development programs.

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Thinking_ExUSAF December 9, 2011 at 8:14 am

And there are plenty of "government oversight" provisions, that if actually implemented would prevent those corner cutting events. . . but that means that on the DoD side, folks have to step up to their oath of office and do their job. (Yes, Im GS, so. . .)

I think that the "escalation" and inefficiences are on a pretty broad spectrum "grey scale". Where they sit today, its just untennable. Perhaps the old way, while not perfect of course, had some merit.

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Dfens December 9, 2011 at 8:32 am

Oversight can't fix stupid. That is literally what these contractors count on is a certain amount of stupidity to help their bottom line. You can't prosecute someone for being stupid, and it is easy to fake stupidity even when you know better. It is a system that's rigged so the government (and thus the taxpayers) can't win. That's why so many people working in procurement are killing themselves. It is very tragic.

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Thinking_ExUSAF December 9, 2011 at 8:37 am

LOL! Perhaps you cant send someone to jail for stupidity (it certainly would fill the cells quickly!), but. . . I guess it comes down to the definition of that little term "win". What is a "win" in a defense procurement? We ALL know what it should be, but it seems that far too many of us (DoD and in industry) clutter up the simple defintion with codiciles of self advancement. Oh well. . . people will be people, right?

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