Home » Air » JSF’s Trouble Stopping on the Boat

JSF’s Trouble Stopping on the Boat

by Ward Carroll on October 24, 2012

On January 18, 1911, Eugene Ely landed his Curtiss pusher airplane aboard the USS Pennsylvania anchored in San Francisco Bay — the first successful shipboard landing of an aircraft, and the first ever using a tailhook system designed and built by circus performer and aviator Hugh Robinson.

After the first trap Ely told a reporter: “It was easy enough. I think the trick could be successfully turned nine times out of ten.”

In the case of the Joint Strike Fighter’s initial aircraft carrier developmental testing, Ely was off a bit — by six, to be exact.  The first 10 times the F-35 tried to perform an arrested landing — with experienced test pilots at the controls – the airplane only caught a wire three times.

You don’t need to be a tailhooker to figure out that that percentage won’t work out in the fleet.  Jets come back from missions usually with a handful of looks at the deck at most, and if a pilot puts his craft in the wires, he should have confidence he’s going to stop.

So what was going on?

The main contributing factor to this high incidence of in-the-wires bolters was that the JSF only has 11 feet between the main mounts and the hook point.  That’s more than 10 feet less than any other tailhook airplane the Navy has ever flown from carriers.  Follow-on video analysis showed that the relatively short wheel-to-hook distance didn’t give the arresting wire time to bounce away from the flight deck after the wheels hit it at touchdown, and that caused the tailhook — with a standard-shaped hook point — to drag across the wires instead of catching them.

Arresting wires don’t lay directly on the flight deck; they’re elevated by curved pieces of metal known as “shives.”  So the engineers’ first thought was to raise the shives so that the hook might have a better chance of catching.  But the Navy wasn’t keen on tackling a ship modification when the system worked fine for every other airplane, so the engineers looked at changing the JSF hook point instead.

The result is a tailhook with a sharper point that sources tell us appears to have solved the problem.

And so we have another data point around why we do flight testing and why it takes so long for airplanes to reach the fleet … besides the convoluted DoD procurement process.

And for all of the computer modelling wizardry and 500-pound brains that populate the military’s systems commands, you never know how something is going to work until you actually try it.

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{ 90 comments… read them below or add one }

Tim UK October 24, 2012 at 1:15 pm

A disaster of procurement , the only advantage this plane will have over the Typhoon when in service is its supposed 360 degree sensor suite. Lets see if they get that working !

The US navy should pull and buy super hornets and spen the rest of the cash on their ucav's.

The fact is the USAF will never once the JSF is fully operational risk them when they will have by then UCAV's to do the first few days dirty work in any full scale conflict. So the actual benefit of these planes over the current crop will be near zero by the time they enter service. Mark my words UCAV's in first followed by B52's using stand off weapons and thousands of decoys, there is zero justification for the JSF.


David October 24, 2012 at 1:20 pm

the Typhoon Naval variant is still theoretical, as it it's AESA radar, which will probably never get funded.


tee October 24, 2012 at 3:41 pm

But the Joint UK MOD and Saab venture for the Sea Gripen is not, and was started in Sept. of 2011. I'm betting the UK will end up using the Sea Gripen over the JSF, since they decided on the B version ( Most Costly $295 Million Ea.). When they can get 3 or 4 Sea Gripens for the same price.


tee October 24, 2012 at 8:03 pm

P.S. The Gripen has AESA radar, IRST, and Super Cruises at Mach 1.2 and uses the New Meteor Missile. Just to name a few things that it will do, and the JSF can't or some things it might be able to do in the future. if "Everything Works as Promised"


Mitch S. October 24, 2012 at 8:59 pm

Can a loaded Gripen really get off a deck without a cat?
(Though the money saved can buy a lot of RATO packs…)

Riceball October 24, 2012 at 1:48 pm

The only problem with your idea is that we're still well away from fielding UCAVs and I'm not entirely convinced that more Super Hornets is the way to go until UCAV technology is matured enough for real use. I think maybe after the F-35 is fielded we can start looking into UCAV tech but we're still a long ways away right now and I don't think that simply throwing money at it would be right approach.


Snafuperman October 24, 2012 at 1:50 pm

Hmm, really? See the UCAVs doing a lot of air to air do we??? And when has the USAF ever suggested it was going to buy a UCAV since the original program was killed?


blight_ October 24, 2012 at 1:58 pm

UCAVs will have more luck firing missiles on targets and executing dogfight subroutines than they will discriminating between friends, foes, mosques and schools on the ground.


Mike October 25, 2012 at 12:09 am

Interesting theory but quite hollow.the USAF uses the heck out of the b-2 of which there are very few and not replaceable. And cost a huge amount of money to build use and maintain and modify. If the USAF has these in inventory they will certainly be used


Hilarious October 24, 2012 at 2:33 pm

“executing dogfight programs”… hahahaha


Davidz October 24, 2012 at 3:24 pm

Just following the target like ordinary missile and opening fire when close enough would work pretty well.


blight_ October 24, 2012 at 4:51 pm

Autonomous dogfighting beats being tethered by satellite and a five second lagtime to controllers in Creech.

Might be less lag if between ground control or a CVN and said UCAV, but…


Lance October 24, 2012 at 2:38 pm

Never cared for the B or C. Be better to build a new navy attack plane leave the JSF for the USAF to replace the F-16.


Chris October 24, 2012 at 5:11 pm

Just what we need, another, "Tailhook Scandal".


Bart October 24, 2012 at 8:21 pm

In ww2 the corsair had huge problems with carrier landings, so badly so that the u.s. flew them only from land strips for a good portion of their use in the pacific. In time the issues were sorted out and corsairs were used well into the Korean conflict. This tailhook thing is not a big deal.


Atomic Walrus October 25, 2012 at 2:05 pm

Specifically, the US Navy had problems with Corsair carrier landings. The British seemed to do fine, even though their carriers were typically smaller than the American ships. It wasn't a tailhook issue, though – more of a problem with poor visibility due to the long nose of the Corsair.


Mitch S. October 24, 2012 at 9:12 pm

A sharper hook? dang Navy tinkerers ruining everything!
L-M had a solution for The Navy, simply buy the new opto sensor computer controlled linear magnetic drive tailhook/boom assembly for a mere $87mil/ea.
Sure they'll need to be overhauled after every 10 landings with lots of expensive, exclusive to L-M parts but it's better than having to park the planes on land every time the CBG goes to sea…


Ken October 25, 2012 at 7:17 am

The Brits taught us how to fly Corsairs off carriers. If I remember correctly they made their approach at an angle. MMCS(SS)(SW) USN Ret.


Anlushac11 October 25, 2012 at 7:42 am

You are correct. The first problem was the heavily framed canopy which blocked the view and was easily enough fixed with a clear bubble canopy.
The next problem was the long nose blocked the view of the traditional approach. The other problem was the Corsairs landing gear struts were too stiff which resulted in the aircraft bouncing back into the air and missing the hook. The strut was lengthened and the rate softened. The Brits flew a angled approach keeping the carrier just off the nose until the last second.


JJMurray October 25, 2012 at 7:32 am

This aircraft is just TOO expensive and will not perform like the miracle that it was sold as.


Curt October 25, 2012 at 8:48 am

"The main contributing factor to this high incidence of in-the-wires bolters was that the JSF only has 11 feet between the main mounts and the hook point. That’s more than 10 feet less than any other tailhook airplane the Navy has ever flown from carriers."

What mindless drivel. If you discount the F9F, F11F, A4, A7, F8, T45 and virtually every other single engine jet aircraft in the USN. In fact, the sharper tailhook design looks remarkably like an A4.


ward October 25, 2012 at 9:17 am

Every airplane you just listed had at least 20 feet, Curt. And thanks for the "mindless drivel" comment. Nice tone.


Curt October 25, 2012 at 11:32 am

OK, before quoting from the DoD slide that shows Main langing Gear to Tailhook distances of various aircraft, lets review math. 11ft (not the same number on the infamous DoD main langing gear to tailhook slide but may be measuring something else) plus 10ft is at least 21ft. Can we agree to that. OK
From the DoD slide with MLG to Tailhook length.
F-35C: 7.1ft
TA-4J: 9.4ft Would you agree that 2.3ft is less than 10ft? Would you agree that a A-4 operated off carriers?
T-45: 14.6ft Would you also agree that 7.6ft is less than 10ft and a T-45 can operate off carriers?
T-2C: 15.7ft And 8.6 is also less than 10?
And whiile the chart doesn't list the F-9F, F-11F, F-8, or A-7, all of them have MLG to Tailhook distances that fall in that range. Why, because like all single engine aircraft, they have similiar geometry limited by the powerplant, And coincidently, all have shaper pointed tailhooks unlike the first design they (LM) tried which was basically a replay of the F-18.
So yes, mindless drivel that is easily disproven.



Curt October 25, 2012 at 12:04 pm

While they don't appear on the DoD slide, if you look at the lines drawings,
F8U is about 11 ft
A7 is about 10ft
F8F appears to be a little longer than the F8U while the F11F is longer due to the extreme aft position on the aircraft. In any event, no where near 20ft (the plane is not even 50ft long).


Curt October 25, 2012 at 12:27 pm

And if you want some other examples, look at the F4D Skyray, The Super Etendard, and the Sea Venom. All of them are carrier aircraft, all of them have MLG to hook distances similiar to the A7/F8U.


TonyC October 25, 2012 at 10:02 am

F-35C will be a challenge for young pilots to master, better to let the automated landing system do the work. If there are serious issue swith automated landing, the US Navy should reconsider their procurement of the F-35C and concentrate on perfecting the UCAV. The F-18E/F can do alot of the mundane missions anyway.
The Air Force seems to be in love with UAV's, there are no pilots to worry about.


2Echo October 25, 2012 at 3:19 pm

" If there are serious issue swith automated landing, the US Navy should … concentrate on perfecting the UCAV."
Would that be the UCAV which will depend heavily on automated landing?


Hefe October 25, 2012 at 10:05 am

In my humble opinionIf we can get the numbers the USAF and the DOD is asking for it will be worth it because China and Russia won't be able to field anything near 2,225 U.S. F-35's + 1,000+ Allied F-35's. If we can't get those numbers then we should open up a new competition and let boeing, northrup grumman, and any other interested parties compete against each other for either a new 5th gen fighter, or a new strategy that uses drones.By having multiple companies compete it will ensure a low cost for whatever they come up with. Also let the companies field their new attack aircraft so that way they have to keep their prices low. Lockheed can afford to keep the price high because no one is competing with them


blight_ October 25, 2012 at 11:35 am

Well, between Lockheed and Boeing Lockmart's -35B looked good enough that we gave them -A and -C to boot. In the fighter biz, it's Lockheed and Boeing…when did Northrop last submit a fighter? The Black Widow?


Michael October 25, 2012 at 12:31 pm

Didn't Northrop submit the F-14?


blight_ October 25, 2012 at 12:55 pm

That would be Grumman, and that was before the ATF program.


tiger October 27, 2012 at 11:40 am

A updated A-6 & F-14 would have been better than the Flying Leatherman tool project.

Tiger October 27, 2012 at 11:50 am

We could actually talk to people & find solutions to disputes that do not require high explosives. That would be even cheaper………


krypton November 13, 2012 at 10:11 am

Yes, Northrup submitted the F-23, and people still say we should have gone with it instead of the coughing comet.

2,225 F-35's would only cost about 434 billion dollars (current cost: subject to go up by 10 million dollars a week) , so we better have a jet with a free M16 and helmet included. Along with that, if the stupid things don't work (still a very open question), we won't have anything else to replace them (there is no free fallback plan in military procurement). BTW, several of the Non-US countries that signed up for F-35's are discussing cancellation even as we speak. That, in conjunction with the cost of all those carriers and subs and nonfunctional smaller ships, and the next generation of non-bulletproof personnel carriers and jamming M-4Zs and the stuff the Marines need because the Army and the Navy won't provide them, should finally force the answer to the question, "Do we really need a military?"

And we'll just give Texas to Lockheed-Martin, George Bush included.

Anyone got the Mandarin self-study course?


Hefe October 25, 2012 at 11:03 am

F-35 Pros: Advanced sensors that can scan other radar without being detected so it will have the first look in any fight I doubt the chinese or the russians will have anything as advanced.. Advanced jammer capable of jamming anything. It has the best integrated network so it will work well with squads in the air and on the ground. It is very manuevarable according to independent test pilots.F-35 Cons: Can be detected from the sides and the rear according to popular mechanics. The price keeps going up, our allys might not purchase it. It does not have a high ceiling which is very important in air to air combat. .


JSFMIKE November 3, 2012 at 5:40 pm

RIGHT! Like PM has some insde track to the radar pole testing that was done. quite wrong there, PM.


Guest October 25, 2012 at 12:46 pm

So why wasn't a standard wheel-to-hook distance part of the initial work-spec?

More to the point, was there a diviation from the work-spec in this regard?


Atomic Walrus October 25, 2012 at 2:12 pm

Good question, but it probably falls into the category of overspecifying a requirement. The requirement is for the aircraft to make an arrested landing. Design details such as wheel to hook distance is more a question of engineering practice. Grumman or McDonnell-Douglas had a lot of expertise and experience designing carrier aircraft. Lockheed and General Dynamics, not so much.


blight_ October 25, 2012 at 3:12 pm

Grumman->Northrop, no longer on the playground

McDonnell-Douglas=Boeing, lost the competition because of the -B.

Hmm, when was the last CTOL aircraft Lockheed built?


JSFMIKE November 3, 2012 at 5:42 pm

F-22 or did you forget. F-117 before that. I think you were trying to say CV model. The USAF variant is the CTOL.


blight_ November 4, 2012 at 2:05 pm

Bah, I was thinking Carrier Take Off and Landing, which doesn't exist. Technically, I should've written CATOBAR.

SMSgt Mac October 26, 2012 at 7:41 pm

Northrop Grumman has the arresting gear design, and I'd suppose 'redesign', responsibility. Bottom line is, until you run the production landing gear over the wire, over a range of operational landing speeds and weights, using tires that emulate the range of actual footprints a real fighter will be running over the wire. Until then, it is a 'best engineering' judgement call based upon history and models as to how the wire will be behaving when the tailhook gets to it. It is no surprise with real data in hand the tailhook 'surprise' is in the rear view mirror and fading fast.


JSFMIKE November 3, 2012 at 5:47 pm

Same engineer that designed the hook for F-35 also designed the F-18 hook assembly. The experts on various aspects of aircraft deesign are few and far between. Hook installation is not a field that is justed that often. Similarly the flying T tail design of the C-17 was created for Boeing by the Lockheed engineers that di the C-5. LM was forced to do the work to keep the funding for the C-5B. It's a very small world.


Alexander Sanchez Jr October 31, 2012 at 5:58 pm

Jeez, this plane is just one big screw up after another. I mean all the data we have on how other aircraft performance to build on and incorporate into the design of this increasing pain in the financial ass, and a simple, and vital piece of gear is designed wrong. With budget cuts due to take place in just 3 months, and with all the talk of getting control of the buget, this project needs to be dropped before anymore money is wasted. If we are serious about controlling the budget, this has to go. STOP PAYING THE CONTRACTOR!!! Tell them we have spent all we are going to for an aircraft that seems to have been design and built wrong from the get go. Have the company fix this aircraft from their own pocket, not the government's. And when they can show a aircraft that can do all the things advertised of it, then we'll start paying them again. but not before. and certainly not for fixing all the never-ending problems that crop up with this aircraft.


Alexander Sanchez Jr October 31, 2012 at 5:59 pm

We need aircraft that work fine against every threat we have encountered so far, not promises of next generation capability in an aircraft that is just one big money "Black Hole". We neither need nor can afford this piece of crap. I mean for all the talk of other countries developing this kind of aircraft, here we are, the most supposedly technologically advance aircraft industry in the world, and this aircraft has had every kind of design, hardware, & software problem you can imagine in an aircraft. Can you imagine what other, less experienced or advanced countries are going to go through. and I'm sure they really can't afford the money we can in a project like this.


JSFMIKE November 3, 2012 at 4:51 pm

Gosh I'm tired of all the BS from non engineer, non Naval Aviators, non JSF team members. They don't know what they are talking about and unfortunately they say it too loudly. It really annoys those of us who flew navy jets, have an aero space degree, and worked on the JSF team.


dissapointed February 5, 2013 at 5:54 pm

This aircraft will not survive shipboard life. The man hours per flight hour are horrendous. This plane will never survive stupid (as we all were at that age) 18 to 20 odd year old kids working on it. It might survive in the USAF (barely, like the F22)
This plane is maybe 30 – 40 percent into its testing and it is already not doing well.
You also realize the difficult parts of the flight tests haven't even begun yet. Look down the road on your big Fancy flight test calender and tell me you think the off center traps, max sink rate/ max weight arrested landings, min speed catapults, high alpha turns, etc, etc, etc, are going to go swimmingly.

Don't Drink the KOOL-AID Mike. It tastes sweet but so does antifreeze.


I worked on this program for 10 months. Prior to that I had 8 years of hands on flight test work and 13 years of flight test support. ALL on Naval Fighter/Attack aircraft. Prior to that 4 1/2 years military service. About 11 different air frames in all.
I quit because the company was much more concerned about appearance than reality.

F-35B IOC 2012 (take those banners down yet)


Edward November 5, 2012 at 8:04 am

I believe it was Stalin who said, "Quantity has a quality all its own." I cannot see how the Navy budget will ever bring enough F-35's into the fleet to be effective as a force.


David October 24, 2012 at 1:21 pm

Yeah, I doubt you Super Hornets will fair too well against PAK-FAs and J-20s.

Those weapon pods have NEVER been tested, and even the stealthiest weapon pod is still hanging off of a wing.


mike October 24, 2012 at 1:24 pm

You know, you make more sense everyday. +1 Besides this joint crap has gone on long enough.


David October 24, 2012 at 6:42 pm

I guess you missed the following part of the article.

"The result is a tailhook with a sharper point that sources tell us appears to have solved the problem."

Read more: http://defensetech.org/2012/10/24/jsfs-initial-tr


PMI October 24, 2012 at 6:53 pm

"To fix the problem the F-35C's air frame would need to be stretched"

—The problem has already been fixed by redesigning the hook & dampener. The article even mentions that in part (the 'sharpened' hook).


Mike October 24, 2012 at 11:58 pm

The costs are high. The aircraft is however quite effective and the mission is quite different than the FA 18. The f 35 offers the USN a set capabilities not available in the present fleet. However the NUCAS program may be the one to supplant the F 35 c.

The tail hook issue is solved without a lot of cost or modification. The FA 18 had it share of seriously expensive teething problems also. Keel redesign apex fitting retrofit. Wing drop issues. This was not nearly as bad. The fix was simple inexpensive and required little retrofit.


Menzie October 25, 2012 at 12:08 am

Bought and paid for.


Dwayne October 25, 2012 at 10:35 am

Anybody here old enough to recall the famous McNamara "Joint Fighter" ot the early 60's which the Navy rejected for a multitude of reasons and finally reached service as the F-IIIB and served the USAF (well) as an attack aircraft? Sure sounds like a repeat. I live near Eglin AFB and have talked with Naval Aviators there for the F-35 project who give the plane high marks in every area but have doubts about its suitability for carrier operations…..who would ever listen to them though?


BlackOwl18E October 24, 2012 at 11:35 pm

Hahaha! Let's talk testing. The F-35 hasn't completed it's testing by 30%. The weapons pod can be mounted on the fuselage or under the wings and it's cheap. Conformal weapons bays have in fact been tested on the F-15SE.

The J-20 is so far out like 2025. The PAK-FA will only be made for Russia in a number of 100, which like the Raptor's numbers, isn't good enough for anything other than homeland defense. The only people who could produce the PAK-FA in large enough numbers are the Indians, who are not quite at the level of skill that we are at. They aren't even looking to fight us as they are too worried about China.

Also, AESA radars and IRST sensors have significantly reduced the advantage stealth brings to the table. I'm not saying 1 Super Hornet upgraded is going to be better than a PAK-FA at air-to-air. I'm saying we'll have roughly 3 Super Hornets for every PAK-FA produced and they will be more than a match for it, especially considering that our pilots are much better skilled. The F-35C is too expensive to be made in nearly enough numbers for the job and it is entirely unnecessary.


Thomas L. Nielsen October 25, 2012 at 2:09 am

"Can a loaded Gripen really get off a deck without a cat?"

Sure. If the deck is long enough :-)

Regards & all,

Thomas L. Nielsen


blight_ October 25, 2012 at 10:59 am

If RCS is low enough, we can about acquisition range for aircraft radar…but what about for the missile? Unless we are passing off all target guidance to the aircraft's more sensitive radar, the seeker head needs to actually do the job. It would be embarassing if an aircraft with expensive sensor systems could acquire a stealth aircraft but missiles could not sustain a lock at BVR…in which case, one could argue that stealth was doing its job.


krypton November 13, 2012 at 9:29 am

Suggestion: don't start hanging real weight off those j35 wings. The F-18 can take it, the JSF can't. Also, they all want IRSTS because it can see when the radar can't . If the FCS can merge the paints from the two, I wouldn't wanna be riding the target, but that's probably in the 10 million lines of code they haven't written yet. It'll be in WIndows 29…


blight_ October 25, 2012 at 11:34 am

If Google is successful proving that a robot has the brainpower to navigate urban traffic, then we'll know that they are more than ready for air to air combat.

Besides, it's probably better to fight with the AI you have than to hope for jammable satellite or RF communications, which could be a target for an anti-radiation missile…it would be so apt to send a fleet of UAVs at an opponent for them to use an Anti-Radiation Cruise Missile to take out the controller.

I remain cynical that the Russians will hold back when it comes to Brahmos, and design their own cruise missile that exceeds MTCR regs for range because they won't export it. The same is true of some of their export-grade anti-ship missiles like the Klub.


Charley A October 25, 2012 at 12:23 pm

It's a damper or snubber – not a dampener.


BlackOwl18E October 25, 2012 at 3:15 pm

Are you kidding me? Didn't you read further down: "the airplane only caught a wire three times… that percentage won’t work out in the fleet."

It hasn't been fixed. They just made a sharp hook, which will degrade over time with every catch and need to be replaced more often. Also if it caught the wire only three times, that'snot even close to what the Navy would call "fixed" at all. It still doesn't work.


PMI October 25, 2012 at 2:56 pm

Pedant. :p


BlackOwl18E October 25, 2012 at 2:59 pm

You're missing my point. I never said stealth was useless. I said its advantage is slowly eroding away. IRST is becoming amazingly powerful and only getting better. Heat seeking missiles don't use radar to acquire a target and heat seeking sensors are getting more precise at longer ranges.


BlackOwl18E October 25, 2012 at 3:09 pm

Also, modern AESA radar modules can easily be put in BVR missiles. I bet us and our enemies are already testing using AESA in radar-guided missiles. The Russians have started using radars that combine different bands and different frequencies to acquire a stealthy object.


BlackOwl18E October 25, 2012 at 3:11 pm

Buying the $400 billion dollar acquisition cost on a new aircraft whose only advantage over older gen fighters is stealth is a really bad move.


BlackOwl18E October 25, 2012 at 3:17 pm

Your wrong there. The mission is the same: multi-role strike fighter. It's supposed to be able to do it all, but it can't do anything right.


blight_ October 25, 2012 at 3:17 pm

"I bet us and our enemies are already testing using AESA in radar-guided missiles"

I would love to believe it, but this is the establishment that is about to hit the fiscal moneywall…and they'd probably protect fighter programs over putting AESA into missiles.

As for enemies, do the Russians have AESA yet?


BlackOwl18E October 25, 2012 at 3:38 pm

They have AESA in the MiG-35. However, for the PAK-FA T-50 they decided to use something different called AFAR (Active Phased Array Radar) which is very similar.

The F-35 program is unrealistic because of the economic situation and it shouldn't be protected. We can't afford it. Either we be smart and significantly reduce it by canceling the F-35B and F-35C (or canceling the whole program all together) or we will support it and it will soak up funds while producing near to nothing.


Charley A October 25, 2012 at 7:06 pm

As in cross-deck pendant? Nope – that's another name for the arresting wire.


Terrence October 25, 2012 at 9:06 pm

And you apparently didn't read the article correctly. The 3 out of 10 tries was at the beginning of the article showing the problem with the original hook design.


William C. October 26, 2012 at 1:41 am

Steath, situational awareness, and networking. All of those new avionics and software is where most of the cost comes from.


blight_ November 13, 2012 at 10:27 am

Amusingly, there's a healthy market in putting less crappy avionics into old crappy aircraft. The old F-5's are still soldiering on in some corner of the globe, along with old MiG's that will likely be mounting missiles newer than their airframes.

Under normal circumstances an aircraft vendor would buy what technology was available off the shelf and equip an aircraft accordingly, then upgrade the entire force technologically as it became available, vs trying to simultaneously develop the whizbang, the aircraft and then present the bill to the taxpayer.

What's done is done though. If the JSF tanks out, then the subcontractors who make their pieces of fancy will try to sell them ad hoc to maintainers of legacy forces who could use similar electronics.

At which point, technical parity could be achieved, but without the advantages of stealth. Then we'll really know for sure if it's the stealth or the technology at hand…


Charley A October 26, 2012 at 7:45 am

The Super Hornet is fronal aspect LO and has networking and situational awareness capabilities now. Upgrades to the avionics are to be installed in the next 2 years (standard in new build supers) and if Boeings new displays are funded, their screens will be lager than the f-35s. Plus the helmet works.


Praetorian October 26, 2012 at 4:36 pm
BlackOwl18E October 26, 2012 at 5:16 pm

That article was pleasing to me… :)


SMSgt Mac October 26, 2012 at 5:34 pm

They caught the last three out of five tries due to the new hookpoint. Using a test setup with a single 'wire' vs multiple wires on a real deck. No public word on whether the 2 misses were due to the hook missing the wire, or the pilot missing the engagement zone. Also use of 'sharper' to describe the new hookpoint in no way indicates it is 'sharp', but merely that it is just less dull. For the record, there is also no such thing as a 'standard' hookpoint.


SMSgt Mac October 26, 2012 at 7:24 pm

What "doubts" specifically? Serious question.
Recognizing that for anything other than things related to taking off and landing, Most Naval Aviators (Meat-servos especially) haven't a clue as to what makes a plane 'suitable' for carrier ops. One thing that will make it MORE suitable than anything out there now:fewer things to corrode.


William C. October 27, 2012 at 3:49 am

The Super Hornet has an existing level of capabilities, but it isn't like what the F-35 incorporates. It has the usual Link 16 capabilities, plus a good AESA radar and JHMCS. The Boeing proposal for an improved Super Hornet with sensor and networking capabilities similar to the F-35 will require a lot of funding, just as it has with the F-35. Frontal LO is helpful but isn't a game-changing factor like all-aspect VLO is.


Gunnie Inc October 27, 2012 at 4:55 am

BlackOwl – have a think before your reply, explain why you think heat seaking missiles do not use radar to acquire a target ?

As i have already said, have a quick think before your reply !

Gunnie Inc


Charley A October 27, 2012 at 10:05 am

I'm not talking about existing capabilities. Provided for and funded in its spiral development model, the Supers are scheduled for Multi-Sensor Integration – sensor fusion – Phase I (H8E) – IOC 2013. MSI Phase II (H10E) – IOC 2014. MSI Phase III (H12) – TBD. All phases are software/firmware – the hardware is already in place or scheduled for installation in depot maintenance, although Boeing wants to replace existing displays with large area displays for phase III. The only thing that the Supers lack vis a vis F-35s is DAS (IRST is a planned upgrade ~ 2014,) although I wouldn't be surprised if DAS-like apertures are added down the line – the Supers have the fiber networking backbone already installed. Link 16 plays well with others, unlike F-35s interflight datalink setup. F-35 requires a BACN aircraft to share its data with other non-F-35 users while remaining stealthy. VLO is perishable – it is expected (by Israeli analysts) that within 5-10 years, VLO advantages will be diminished by improved sensors and radars – exactly the time frame when F-35s are beginning to be fielded in large numbers…


ChrisM October 27, 2012 at 4:00 pm

@Gunnie, I think he's trying to explain why reducing a radar return (smaller RCS or absorbent materials) isn't a factor considering the improvements being made in IR seeker tech.


William C. October 27, 2012 at 6:42 pm

Those upgrades are indeed occuring, but none of the stuff shown in Boeing's "International" Super Hornet roadmap is funded. That means all of those items like an IRST under the nose, DAS-like sensors, new cockpit displays, and a new HMDS don't yet exist for the Super Hornet and will require funding and time to make them a reality.

The F-35 will have Link 16 compatibility and the next generation MADL which provides a lot of advantages. The F-22 with its IFDL had those communication problems you speak of, and requires support BACN aircraft to transmit data to things other than F-22s.

Stealth isn't all or nothing, even against newer radar systems detection and tracking ranges will still be significantly reduced. ECM and decoys are also more effective than they would be if used in conjunction with less stealthy designs.


Charley A October 27, 2012 at 7:01 pm

The Navy is funding of procurement of an IRST mounted in the nose of the center line drop tank. Deliveries begin this year, and IOC is in 2013. Integral IRST under the nose (gear door?) or somewhere else in the fuselage is not funded, as it is part of the IRM as you state. It's a pretty good bet that if a new MYP contract is issued for more SHs, some of those IRM improvements will be included.


BlackOwl18E October 28, 2012 at 6:47 pm

So they didn't conduct as many tests? That's suspicious to me. Guess what? It caught 3 wires the first time! If it did it the second time with fewer tests that doesn't mean jack. They should have conducted 10 tries. It looks like Lockheed just started the testing and once they got 3 successes they stopped because it made their numbers look better. Until the hook passes the first test with an ability to catch a wire 9 times out of 10, then it's still not fixed.


SMSgt Mac October 30, 2012 at 9:32 pm

Where is it written or otherwise announced that testing is over? Answer: Nowhere. Testing isn't complete, as the fix is still being rolled out. 3 out of 5 was just the last session. The latest successes were with pretty much just from a hook point change. There's more to come, and everyone knows it, so you can stop hyperventilating any time.


BlackOwl18E October 31, 2012 at 8:53 am

I'm just wondering why people are saying that the problem is fixed when in fact it isn't. That's all. Glad I got my point across though. ;)


krypton November 13, 2012 at 9:35 am

Can you say F111B? Hint: lead weight in the nose compartment?


krypton November 13, 2012 at 9:50 am

F117? You mean those piles of chopped-up airplane guts down at Davis-Monthan? I thought they did the same things to them that Diefenbacher (Allah condemn the filthy pig to hell) did with the CF105…


blight_ November 13, 2012 at 10:23 am

F-117's were actually put into storage at Tonopah, and not Davis.

Makes you wonder if they have plans for them…or want to keep them out of sight, out of mind.

In principle, those Nighthawks are the only proven stealth force on the planet right now. In practice though, it is possible to take one down, they have terrible payloads (though with modern day SDBs…?); and they have no known air to air capability.


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