Home » Air » F-35 Watch » F-35 Still Faces ‘Considerable’ Risks: Auditors

F-35 Still Faces ‘Considerable’ Risks: Auditors

by Brendan McGarry on June 25, 2013

F-35C

The Defense Department’s F-35 fighter jet program has recently made progress on several fronts, but still faces “considerable” challenges and risks, according to a new analysis from government auditors.

The Joint Strike Fighter program in 2012 met most of its management objectives, according to recent testimony from Michael Sullivan, director of acquisition and sourcing management at the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress.

The development effort last year completed initial software testing, started pilot training and renegotiated the contract with Lockheed Martin Corp., the plane’s manufacturer, yet failed to deliver the planned 40 production aircraft and correct deficiencies in the system for tracking cost and schedule progress, according to the remarks.

With about two-thirds of development testing remaining, “the program continues to incur financial risk,” Sullivan said in testimony prepared for a June 19 hearing of the Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee.

The Joint Strike Fighter is the Pentagon’s most expensive weapons acquisition program, with an estimated cost of $391 billion to develop and build 2,457 Lightning II aircraft. That’s $4.5 billion, or 1.1 percent, less than a projection from last year due in part to revised labor rates.

Fifty-two aircraft have been delivered through 2012. The single-engine jet designed to replace such aircraft as the F-16, A-10, F/A-18, and AV-8B.

The Defense Department next year plans to spend $8.4 billion to buy 29 F-35s, including 19 for the Air Force, six for the Marine Corps, and four for the Navy. The funding includes $6.4 billion in procurement, $1.9 billion in research and development, and $187 million in spare parts.

Ensuring that the F-35 is affordable continues to be “of paramount concern,” Sullivan said. The program is estimated to cost, on average, $12.6 billion a year through 2037, he said.

“Maintaining this level of sustained funding will be difficult in a period of declining or flat defense budgets and competition with other ‘big ticket items’ such as the KC-46 tanker and a new bomber program,” Sullivan said.

If international customers don’t buy the planned minimum of 697 aircraft, unit costs will increase. In addition, the Pentagon has said the cost to operate and sustain the jet — estimated at more than $1 trillion over its 30-year service life — isn’t affordable.

According to the GAO’s Sullivan, the program has made “considerable progress” in limiting the aircraft’s four areas of technical risk, including the helmet-mounted display, autonomic logistics information system, arresting hook system and structural durability. “However, additional work remains to fully address those risks,” he said.

Rep. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., earlier this month unsuccessfully sought to freeze procurement funding for the program until Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel certified that Lockheed fixed these problems.

“I want contractors to be held accountable and I want to fix the technical problems before we give them another $6 billion of taxpayer money,” she said during a hearing to amend the House’s version of the 2014 defense authorization bill. “There’s nothing wrong with flying before we buy. In fact, most of us test drive cars before we [buy].”

The panel voted against her amendment to the legislation, which sets policy goals and spending targets for fiscal 2014, which begins Oct. 1.

The program has also taken steps to improve the plane’s software, an area of concern that Pentagon officials and lawmakers have said may cause more delays, according to Sullivan.

Lockheed has reassigned 200 engineers to work on the software, including many from outside the aeronautics division, with specialties in space, ship-board, and sensor technology, according to Steve O’Bryan, vice president of F-35 program integration and business development.

“We pulled the best and brightest from throughout our organization,” he said June 19 during a press conference at the Paris Air Show.

The company has also invested $100 million to build a second laboratory where employees work in shifts around the clock to write, test, and verify the code, O’Bryan said.

The GAO found that the time it took to fix software defects last year fell from 180 days to 55 days and the time needed to build and release software for testing dropped from 187 hours to 30 hours, according to Sullivan.

Still, the version of software needed by the Air Force and the Navy to begin combat operations in 2016 and 2019, respectively, remains one of the program’s “highest risks,” he said. (The Navy on Saturday received its first F-35C, the version of the aircraft designed for carrier take-offs and landings.)

The final software package, known as 3F, is designed to support a suite of internal and external weapons, including the GPS-guided Joint Direct Attack Munition, laser-guided Paveway II bomb, Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile, and infrared Sidewinder missile.

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{ 135 comments… read them below or add one }

RunningBear June 25, 2013 at 1:04 pm

"yet failed to deliver the planned 40 production aircraft and correct deficiencies in the system for tracking cost and schedule progress".

OK how many of the 40 did they deliver (39, and by type?) and how many were ordered of each type?

Were the system deficiences a big deal and if so, when will they fix it? The rest is current history…..

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wpnexp June 29, 2013 at 12:54 am

All I know is that appperently, 64 are currently flying. They appear to be behind in delivering aircraft, but I would assume that is because they have made lots of changes to the aircraft to meet the services needs. As the concurrency issues are being resolved, it appears that production has increased somewhat. New aircraft should straight of the line with fewer changes occuring on the line.

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LMGuy July 2, 2013 at 6:07 pm

as of June 2013, there have been 69 F-35s delivered. The new report is inaccurate or out of date.

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Lance June 25, 2013 at 1:16 pm

So like most DOD pork the pentagon talks a BIG game on how good they are but reality is far from there office in DC.

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Ben June 25, 2013 at 1:46 pm

Flat or declining budgets wouldn't be a problem if the DoD knew how to manage the F-35 program.

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Anonymous June 25, 2013 at 3:27 pm

Instead they furlough the middle class workers.

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void June 25, 2013 at 2:45 pm

Sounds like they never read The Mythical Man-Month

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Andy June 25, 2013 at 3:34 pm

Cancel this worthless aircraft, fire all VP, order moree F22 PROBLEM SOLVE.

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Ben June 25, 2013 at 4:52 pm

Modify F-22 with the F-35's HMDS, DAS, and IRST, then order about 500 more. Fill all additional needs with the Super Hornet.

Bam. Air dominance secured.

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blight_ June 25, 2013 at 5:27 pm

"Modify F-22 with the F-35's HMDS, DAS, and IRST, then order about 500 more"

90 billion dollars later

"We couldn't integrate it!"

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Ben June 25, 2013 at 5:50 pm

That's easy to say with all of the recent overruns, but it could be done if the DoD grew some balls. And If I remember correctly, the F-22 was designed with spare room for future avionics upgrades.

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tiger June 25, 2013 at 9:59 pm

The F-22 which has it's own issues. Sorry, but it is not a replacement option.

wpnexp June 29, 2013 at 1:07 am

That doesn't solve the air to ground issue, that the F-22 can't fill. Nor can the F-22 be modified for the Navy, Marines, not the UK or any other foreign aircraft. As much as I would love to have more F-22s bought, the F-35 is the aircraft we have. Actually, I would think that after much of the air to ground mission is covered, the F-35 should be modified to fill the air-to-air role along the lines of the F-22. I don't think it would be impossible to make it a twin engined plane, with a larger wing, and more AAMs.

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Ben June 29, 2013 at 11:28 am

I realize that. That's where the Super Hornet comes in, and that's why you only buy about 500 additional F-22s.

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tiger June 25, 2013 at 10:04 pm
Tad June 25, 2013 at 3:40 pm

< but still faces “considerable” challenges and risks,>

Just pump more money into the program and you can solve all of the challenges and risks. Simple.

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Restore Palestine June 25, 2013 at 4:46 pm

How about another 65 billions for R&D, plus additional 600 billions for increased cost in the entire order due to unexpected delay and technical problems?

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SJE June 25, 2013 at 3:53 pm

The contractors need to realize that the whole F35 debacle is not just about this one system, its about the Pentagon's way of doing things. Congress is sharpening its knives. Congress has already said it doesnt trust the Pentagon on gay soldiers, women in combat, and sexual assault, and is gaining considerable steam to challenge procurement and the cosy relationship with contractors. (Of course Congress is a big PART of the problem, but that doesnt stop the pols from taking shots)

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Rover June 25, 2013 at 4:30 pm

F-15 production line OPEN
F-16 production line OPEN
F-18 production line OPEN
F-22 production line CLOSED
F-35 production line FUBAR

Insane! So much waste.

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SJE June 25, 2013 at 5:14 pm

A-10 production line OPEN

More importantly, competitors lines are also open to supply our p**ssed off allies

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SJE June 25, 2013 at 5:15 pm

Sorry, only the A10 modernization is open.

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Restore Palestine June 26, 2013 at 12:05 am

edit:

F-22 R&D cost FUBAR, quality control FUBAR, production cost & schedule FUBAR, production line CLOSED.

F-35 R&D cost FUBAR, quality control FUBAR, production cost & schedule FUBAR, production line still OPEN.

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Restore Palestine June 26, 2013 at 8:13 pm

F-22 R&D cost FUBAR, quality control FUBAR, production cost & schedule

FUBAR, production line CLOSED.

F-35 R&D cost FUBAR, quality control FUBAR, production cost & schedule

FUBAR, production line still OPEN.

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wpnexp June 29, 2013 at 1:22 am

The F-35 is in production. One Marine unit has already been stood up, and is training to become operational. The Air Force should be equipping its first operational squadron soon. Finally, the units at Nellis and the units at Eglin could be deployed briefly if required. The Nellis unit will be responsible for developing tactics and conducting operational testing, so they wil be the most capable unit for a while. Also, only the F/A-18 is producing aircraft for the US. All other aircraft are for foreign customers. None of them are stealthy, and after much work, they can only be made somewhat stealthy. All of them require extensive use of wing mounted weapons or pods, none of which are stealthy. The F-35 does need much more weapons testing, but according to F-15E Strike Eagle pilots, the F-15E deployed to the Gulf for Deasert Shield before the plane had completed testing.

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hibeam June 25, 2013 at 4:57 pm

F-35 Still Faces ‘Considerable’ Risks from "free stuff" Obama budgets. Maybe Canada can protect us?

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BlackOwl18E June 25, 2013 at 6:48 pm

Canada is still facing the F-35 threat and from the looks of it they don't stand a chance despite their fierce resistance.

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JCross June 25, 2013 at 6:58 pm

From what I've heard, it's pretty much down to the F-35 or F/A-18E, and there is still some serious controversy up there about the cost and cold weather reliability of the F-35. Sounds like the coatings and sensors on the 35 are very cold sensitive, and Canada has plenty of it.

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BlackOwl18E June 25, 2013 at 7:07 pm

The coatings are known to be temperature sensitive. They peel and bubble if the JSF reaches its top speed of Mach 1.6 and they require the F-35 to be in heated hangers if the jet is arctic weather.

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JCross June 25, 2013 at 7:33 pm

That last part is what the Canadians are really worried about. Large chunks of their country is arctic tundra, and the costs for building and supporting a large series of heated hangars would be huge.

William_C1 June 25, 2013 at 10:24 pm

You're going on about an already resolved issue. Those stealth coatings are far more robust than on any previous stealth aircraft, some of that technology is being applied to the F-22 fleet.

I'm not aware of the status of the testing but the cold weather functionality requirements for the F-35 are supposed to be the same as the F-22.

wpnexp June 29, 2013 at 1:42 am

The stealth is baked into the skin of the aircraft. Now, it is hard not to assume that it has been tested to cold temperatures, and as the plane operates at high altitude, I am pretty sure it has already experienced cold weather at those altitudes, expecially as it has tested at Pax River in the winter already. This has to be a red herring.

wpnexp June 29, 2013 at 1:51 am

The bubbling has only occurred over a small area, near the tail if I understand it right. As it is near the engine, at high speed, the engine would likely cause problems. This occurred with the B-2 also. I believe the problem has already been solved as the plane is no longer restricted to subsonic speeds. And do you really think the Canadians plan on servicing the F-35 outdoors on a regular basis? I imagine they plan to make deployments to areas where a hanger may not be availalbe, but I doubt the F-35 will not be able to handle such a deployment. As Alaska is a primary training range, similar to Red Flag, but larger, I am sure the F-35 will be deploying there fairly often.

Doc T June 26, 2013 at 10:25 pm

As opposed to the cataclysmic Bush-Cheney floods of free gifts to Corporate America. Cheney lied us into an obscene war in Iraq – four thousand dead, tens of thousands with life altering injuries, trillions spends, hundreds of billions " lost", and you make your little comments about Obama's budget. Go iron your sheet & set fire to a cross.

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wpnexp June 29, 2013 at 1:58 am

Tell me which soldier didn't volunteer to serve his country when they signed up? How is it that recruiting was never a problem during the wars? And it seems that the Congress authorized the wars, and never attempted to defund the wars. If fact, Pres.Obama employed the same surge in Afghanistan the Pres Bush used. It is funny that no one connects the fact that Syria, a second rate country somehow has a huge chemical weapons stockpile, but the larger Iraq did not, when they had already used it in the war with Iran thirty years earlier. Seems you are the nutty one here. Probably in need of a rubber room.

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gyamfison June 25, 2013 at 5:25 pm

American should spend these billion in protecting tech from the Chinese. after this heavy spending and these technology falls in the wrong hands , it render the program. wealthless .

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wpnexp June 29, 2013 at 2:00 am

That is the problem when you try to get dozens of states and nearly as many countries in on the production. Pretty hard to protect all the secrets when things are spread out that much.

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gyamfison June 25, 2013 at 5:28 pm
david June 25, 2013 at 6:31 pm

Let's not forget that China probably stole the plans to the F-35.

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Guest June 28, 2013 at 1:15 am

Good point. So, maybe the whole reason for the F-35 program is to fool the Chinese into building a self-destructing fighter.

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wpnexp June 29, 2013 at 2:06 am

I believe that general info was not properly secured. I don't think the serious technology has been compromised. If fact, as we haven't even completed development of all the tech, so it is hard to image the Chinese having a better handle on something we haven't even finished yet. Fewer subcontractors would probably be a great help in solving this.

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BlackOwl18E June 25, 2013 at 6:50 pm

Anyone else think that the Navy's F-35C delivery was a response to the recent article in the Proceedings June 2013 issue called "Averting the Navy's Tactical Aircraft Crisis?" Lockheed's new chief engineer also came out and said that the F-35C was his highest priority.

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JCross June 25, 2013 at 7:01 pm

I'd argue it's because of Boeing getting a tender for the Sixth-gen F/A-XX. If I was Lockheed, I'd rush to put as many C models out as possible, before yet another competitor arrives on the scene. (The XX design has already been under work for 4 years, and has done substantial scale model testing.)

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Sam Ting June 25, 2013 at 8:30 pm

We'll never get the F/A-XX.

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BlackOwl18E June 25, 2013 at 11:08 pm

I wouldn't be so sure of that my friend.

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JCross June 25, 2013 at 11:59 pm

Boeing's already worked on it for several years. Boeing's given a formal briefing to the navy, and tech demos are scheduled for this fiscal year. Considering Boeing's work on similar flying wing drones for the navy, and a pretty good track record for getting things in on time, and it looks like a pretty good proposition.

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Sally June 26, 2013 at 10:09 am

You forget that Boeing was part of the F-22 team. On time was never part of their vocabulary. And don't even get me started on the 787.

Josh June 26, 2013 at 12:32 am

Really? You honestly believe there will be no next-generation aircraft in the future? We are on the 5th generation, why can't we go to the 6th?

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Restore Palestine June 26, 2013 at 11:00 pm

Because you don't have any money for that.

Godzilla June 30, 2013 at 5:53 pm

I guess he is one of those guys who thinks unmanned drones will replace fighters in the next generation.

Josh June 26, 2013 at 12:30 am

Lockheed Martin is working on their own 6th gen fighter.

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john moore June 26, 2013 at 2:41 pm

they should get the 5th gen working first!

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wpnexp June 29, 2013 at 2:12 am

BlackOwl – Have you even read the article. The "Ensign" straight out of Annapolis wants the Navy to buy the Air Force variant? I'm sorry, but the article was a disgrace in my opinion. The author assumes that none of the issues with the plane will be resolved, which is an ignorant position to start from. Engineers live to solve problems. I am a retired intel analyst, and I know a hell of a lot more than that ensign.

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BlackOwl18E June 29, 2013 at 5:50 pm

I have read the article. He wants us to buy the Air Force variant because we here in the Navy are stuck in the F-35 program and can't leave. Whats the point of forcing us to buy a jet for the sake of another variant being cheaper? Why don't we just buy the F-35A and cut our costs by a significant margin. Also we could buy the Super Hornets we need, not lose any capability, fill the gap, and save money. That article was pure genius.

As for the problems being fixed, well it's been over a decade and they're still there. LM has been given something like $80 billion dollars and the problems are still there. I would have to agree with the Ensign on this one. It doesn't look like they are ever going to get fixed. If they are able to be fixed we still are out of time and out of money to do that and still buy the amount of aircraft we need and keep them in operation for the time that we need.

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Big-Dean June 25, 2013 at 10:04 pm

I've got a plan, let's just transfer the F-35 to China, since they've got most of it already any way, then they can "fix" all of the problems ;-P

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Restore Palestine June 26, 2013 at 12:09 am

How much are you willing to pay the Chinese to fix F-35's problems?

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NGF June 26, 2013 at 2:52 am

We still don't know how the final version of F-35 will perform, how much it will cost to purchase and how much it will cost to operate. Normally a prudent customer wait for more data before committing. But since so much money has already been invested the program rolls on. I pray it works out because if it doesn't the US and its allies can say goodbye to air superiority.

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citanon June 26, 2013 at 6:51 pm

Not if the customer wants a custom developed best of everything flying miracle. You pay the money to support the development because no company can afford to make the investment otherwise.

We can debate separately about whether asking for a custom miracle is the right way to go about defense procurement, but I think you'll find this pay structure you're complaining about pretty similar to almost every other case when the customer does request something like that.

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Leon Suchorski June 26, 2013 at 5:11 am

Back in the 60s, I worked in R&D on the EA-6A while I was in the Marines. I found that I could write a better tech manual on our systems than the engineers, and they had me rewrite them. Doing it my way was faster, and in combat , speed of repair is prominent. The engineer is only good so far, and then the guy who will have to do the work takes the better road. I say give the F-35 a chance, and you might be surprised. They still talk about the work that we did in the 60s on the EA-6A as precedent setting for the EA-6B, the Growler, and the Prowler.

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John Murray June 26, 2013 at 11:13 am

Unfortunately they will be talking about the work on the F-35 for at least another decade without a fully functional aircraft to show for it. Not to mention that even though this was supposed to replace the Marine EA-6Bs the EW package is still only on the drawing board with NO projected date for completion while the VMAQT squadrons are slated to be all gone in 2019. Sorry, but I don't see the F-35 being in position to do that in that time frame and if the Marines hand off their airborne EW role to the Navy they (like the USAF before them) will come to regret it.

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wpnexp June 29, 2013 at 2:18 am

Well, seems like the EA-18G Growler is the replacemnt for the EA-6B anyway. If the F-35 has an EW variant that would be awesome, but it is clear that the basic F-35 already flying has more EW capability than any other fighter in the past.

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Biafra June 26, 2013 at 9:04 am

Holy S***!!
How can a F-35 do the job of an A-10??????
Pentagon has just gone CRAZY!!!!!!

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SJE June 26, 2013 at 11:40 am

Time for the army to get its own fixed wing CAS.

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tiger June 26, 2013 at 12:41 pm

Your A-10 is not that special anymore. The mission it was built for,Killing Armor over Germany is long gone. Smart weapons give other jets the same ability to take out tanks at standoff ranges. The A-10 still needs air superiority to operate effectively. Now you have a plane with more than token air to air ability. Nor do you need a 30mm for most ground targets. Loiter? I still have B-1's, B-52's & drones that can hang arround.

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Biafra June 26, 2013 at 1:40 pm

I disagree with the B-1 & B-52 options. These planes were built for the strategik nuclear strike doctrine of the cold war. Of course they have a superb payload, range and endurance… But in term of durabilty and in a battlefield of 3 yards line they are far from being the best option. Todays wars are mostly faught in battlefield with no front and where the difference between a civilian and an enemy is far from being clear… A drone & A-10 & C-130 Gunship sounds like a perfect combination for todays CAS missions…

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tiger June 26, 2013 at 9:19 pm

A lot of the work in Afghanistan is being done by the heavies. They have been upgraded to deliver precision weapons.

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SJE June 26, 2013 at 10:04 pm

Precision kill weapons require advanced guidance systems, most of which can be confused by decoys, jamming, etc. Those systems are getting smaller. What if every tank has one? The Israelis already employ anti missile systems on their tanks that are able to detonate rounds before they impact.

In that environment, there is something to be said for hundreds of rounds of DU coming out of a gun.

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wpnexp June 29, 2013 at 2:27 am

Agreed Tiger. Seems we need to keep the A-10 around for a crisis, in a mothball state at least, but the SFW will do more to kill tanks than the maverick will. Not that the F-35 can't carry the Maverick, but not in stealth mode. Assuming weather isn't horrible, the EOTS on the F-35 will give a better view from on high than an A-10 flying low and slow. I'm pretty sure flying the F-35 low isn't ideal, but it is hard to imagine that even the A-10 would survive with a battery of 2S6 Tunguska in the area, not to mention a few dozen SA-24 Grinch's.

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Blue June 26, 2013 at 10:17 am

I bet a lot of people who oppose the F-35 probably also opposed the F-14, F-15, F-16 and F-18 back in the day, also.

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SJE June 26, 2013 at 11:39 am

I don't recall so much opposition to the F18

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Tad June 26, 2013 at 6:45 pm

I recall some. I think the main objection early on was to its range.

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oblatt1 June 26, 2013 at 11:54 am

nonsense the biggest supporters of the F-14, F-15, F-16 and F-18 back in the day are now some of the biggest critics of the F-35

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Free America June 26, 2013 at 1:52 pm

How would you know that?

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Godzilla June 30, 2013 at 6:00 pm

Remember the Fighter Mafia? In their view advanced electronics and gold plating were useless fluff that did not belong in an airplane and increased costs and development time. They also thought ground attack belonged in a dedicated plane. Compare this with the F-35 project.

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Lenna March 27, 2014 at 6:53 am

It’s a plrsauee to find someone who can identify the issues so clearly

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tiger June 26, 2013 at 12:29 pm

In the year 2013 where is this great air threat you need fighters for so bad? There are no Bears or Backfires ready to nuke the US. There is no Battle of Britain to fight versus any air force? The terrorists are on the ground, not the air.

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Biafra June 26, 2013 at 1:48 pm

I agree with on this one Tiger!

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Free America June 26, 2013 at 1:55 pm

Is that a real question? Russia and China…The US military's doctrine is peace through deterrence. Weakness is not an option.

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Kurt Montandon June 26, 2013 at 3:24 pm

Russia and China will only be our enemies if we force them to be.

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SJE June 26, 2013 at 10:05 pm

I dunno. Russia seems very intent on doing whatever it can to p*ss off the USA. Its like an annoying younger brother.

tiger June 26, 2013 at 9:35 pm

China? Economic rival & partner. Nobody in China is planning the invasion of California. They can buy the foreclosed property cheaper & easier.

Russia? This is 2013. Not 1983. A Air force with no forward bases. A Navy that hardly puts to sea. A Army for keeping the republics in check. Not fighting NATO across Germany any more.

Your chasing boogey men instead of Islamic nutjobs who are the real threat.

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Ben June 26, 2013 at 10:03 pm

And those Islamic nutjobs are mostly a threat because we occupy their holy lands and bomb civilians with our drones.

Restore Palestine June 26, 2013 at 10:37 pm

You are right about China and Russia, but wrong about the Middle East.

The people in the M.E. want the US out of there and stop scheming for oil or influencing, killing civilians, interfering with their internal affairs, and endlessly making military incursions in the region.

wpnexp June 29, 2013 at 2:47 am

California has not been a reason for us going to war since at least the 1890s. China wants to control it's side of the Pacific, otherwise they wouldn't be investing in Anti-Access weapons. It is likely that some nations on that side will saddle up next to China when they see we can't defend them also. Other countries they will likely intiidate into neutrality. So, with a wider scope of action, we will be hard pressed to take them on.

Russia isn't a military threat, but thay certainly will sell their planes and technology to our enemies.

Ben June 26, 2013 at 5:21 pm

Soooo get rid of our air forces? Or just buy incredibly overpriced, underperforming shit and not care about it?

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tiger June 26, 2013 at 9:38 pm

No. But instead address other defense priorities.

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Doc T June 26, 2013 at 10:35 pm

Tiger, the F-35 is a brilliant vehicle for ensuring uniform and civilian promotions within that little five-sided building beside the Potomac, for maintaining the mega-salaries and bonuses in the military industry (that Eisenhower warned about), and for jobs in Congressional districts. In terms of America's Defense: JET Noise = The Sound of Corporate Profits. John McCain is fighting as hard as he can to put U.S. Forces into Syria, and where in the next target in the never-ending wars.

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wpnexp June 29, 2013 at 3:00 am

Doc T, do you really think running a corporation at a loss is the best way to build a fighter aircraft? Maybe you can show us the way by going to work without taking any pay. Your patriotic, just do it for the country. And I am sure you have a lot of experience building the worlds finest fighter planes. Well, at least the ones made out of paper, anyway.

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ChuckL July 2, 2013 at 7:53 pm

The Russians are working on a B-2 duplicate with some supersonic capability.

The you must remember tht the P-51 was developed and tested in less than 100 days. Ovf course in those days the airplanes were just cars that had wings and mechcanical controls. Converting an automobile plant to build airplanes was a short time job.

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Big-Dean June 27, 2013 at 4:31 pm

Blue, YOU are obviously a part of the F-35 mafia. How much does Lockhead pay you to write this fiction?

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wpnexp June 29, 2013 at 3:08 am

I am not part of any aircraft mafia, and I might even suggest that F-15s, F-16s an FA-18s could be bought to put pressure on LockMart (and to help the Air Nat'l Guard), but we must get the F-35 right and in production. And for the right price.

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John Murray June 26, 2013 at 11:09 am

"…two-thirds of development testing remaining…"
This aircraft is a bridge too far. Sorry folks, I am all for outfitting with the best equipment available but common sense needs to play a role as well otherwise we would be spending trillions to outfit every grunt with a man-portable rail gun. There are come things they have learned work during this development and it's time to take those and use them with either existing airframes or with a much cheaper one. We simply cannot afford this white elephant going forward with absolutely no confidence that it will ever meet its goals and expectations let alone be anywhere near the cost projections (which have only gone up since the beginning).

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wpnexp June 29, 2013 at 3:18 am

Testing is a time consuming process to determine the capabilities of the aircraft, but to suggest that the plane doesn't work because they are still testing it is wrong. We are still testing B-52s, who would suggest that they don't work? Not testing the aircraft properly only limits the ability of the plane. Who wants to fly a plane that hasn't been properly tested. Do you think the testers should cut corners to go faster? This isn't the P-51 Mustang, which had to be tested and given a new engine to become the great plane it eventually became. Getting the tail hook working and the helmet display perfected are the most serious issues, neither is likely to be a show stopper. In fact, the F-35 has always flown with the Helmet display. Software is doing fine, it just takes time to write and test.

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Don B, USAF RET MSGT June 26, 2013 at 11:20 pm

Old but gold, the A10, we got them and they have proven their reliability. Mean machine. Reliable!

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USSeal June 27, 2013 at 12:04 am

The shitty F-35 to replace all those aircraft? Our government is crazy!

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Safehouse June 27, 2013 at 5:45 am

Why don't we let the people whose (sp?) lives depend on "danger close" air support decide what they want. An A-10 that can pump hard core death out of that gatling gun, is highly survivable, is capable of rapid repair (duct tape and bailing wire) and can loiter a hell of a lot longer over the battle area sipping fuel compared to a fast mover guzzeling gas and prone to tempermental software glitches and micro FOD?
Just wonderin'.

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LEG July 3, 2013 at 6:34 pm

The GAU-8 is never any better than the targeting that lays the pipper.
Late Mod PE/IFFC operational flight programs, along with the targeting pods, have done a lot to take the 30mm out to it's ballistic limits (to the point where the Combat Mix is no longer efficient because the HE rounds fall out of the pattern at about 10-11,000ft) but as the target shrinks to man-size, so does the need to get up close and personal with the gun to ensure hits. Against insurgent threats, the A-10 is only about a 2,500ft gun-platform, tops.
And so you have a 4,000lb weapon, taking up 1/2 of the total fuselage volume with perhaps 20-25 aimed bursts onboard. When I can achieve the same effects on target from an 8,200ft slant (that's from a helicopter referent for 2.5km on the Mk.66 motor, so it may be better on a fast mover) using the M261 or M255 grenade/flechette warheads.

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LEG July 3, 2013 at 6:35 pm

On an APKWS or DAGR laser-guided rocket.
The LAU-131 or 68D/D is about a 500lb weight penalty @ 6 shots per pod. So if you've got a BRU-55/57 CVER with two pods per rack and two pylons per jet available; you get the same basic bus lethality from a single 70mm cargo rocket as you do 20-30 individual PGU-13/14 rounds. Nearly the same number of passes (20 vs. 25) as aimed engagements. And THREE TIMES the standoff that the A-10 gives you.

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LEG July 3, 2013 at 6:36 pm

Which is where the 'nothing can do CAS better' argument crashes and burns.
Because not only is the shooter safer from MANPADS and AAA as trashfire, but the lack of an Overhead requirement to wait for the shooter to pull off and clear means that you can instead use the USMC cardinal point system (based on the Harrier and Hornet as .8:1, 450 knot, platforms) to roll in jets in a constant tempo of pass after pass after pass. Because they clear up and away rather than over the top.
The A-10s gutless TF34s give it a T/Wr of about .5, meaning it takes anything up to 5 minutes to climb back out to perch in AfGs hot'n'hi air and reset for another attack. During which time it can be shot all the way up because it's only doing about 180 knots. And so can the guys on the ground it's protecting.

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Guest June 28, 2013 at 1:21 am

"The Defense Department next year plans to spend $8.4 billion to buy 29 F-35s, including 19 for the Air Force, six for the Marine Corps, and four for the Navy. The funding includes $6.4 billion in procurement, $1.9 billion in research and development, and $187 million in spare parts."

I'm sorry, but how can this purchase be considered even remotely rational? This abortion is supposed to replace the F-16, the Warthog, and essentially every other warplane in our inventory? I thought Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara was dead.

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wpnexp June 29, 2013 at 3:37 am

Do you realize the the Air Force is spending billions a year on the F-22, and the B-2, and even the F-16. And that is only on research, not production. In fact, the F-35 is running around the same cost in then dollars as the F-15, and the F-15 was only a fighter, and was not replacing five other types of planes. Also, many of the systems embedded on the F-35 are separate subsystems (pods) on other aircraft. If you had to add them to the cost of those planes, they woud be much higher also. Everyone needs to get it that the A-10 and F-16 are not the answer. Even the Boeing F-32 was a turkey compared to the F-35. The problem is, there is no other answer. Gone are the days when we had five fighter programs going at one time (and only two of the five would be worth a damn).

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ChuckL July 2, 2013 at 7:43 pm

Well, 40% good is much better than 0%.

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ChuckL July 2, 2013 at 7:58 pm

And the F-35 is running about the same cost in now dollars as the F-22, while delivring so far nothing and when it reaches design capabliity, if ever, only less than half of the capability

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wpnexp June 29, 2013 at 3:46 am

I suggest that the next fighter program not be a forced contrivance to meet fifteen different needs all at once. But, developing a fighter that can grow over time, like the F-16 has may be the best way to go about it. And yet, even the F-16 under performed initially. The Block 10, 15 and 20 aircraft were nearly worthless, and were replaced quickly. If we went straight to the Block 30 F-16, I am sure everyone woud be complaining about how long it took to develop, and how much it cost. At least with the F-35, all the aircraft can be upgraded to higher blocks with small hardware changes, and significant software upgrades.

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robert June 29, 2013 at 5:50 pm

go f-35 !!! build more F-22s !!!

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XYZ June 29, 2013 at 11:11 pm

From reading the title of the article, seems like the solution is simple: Just fire all the auditors. Done.

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ChuckL July 2, 2013 at 7:41 pm

Since the F-35 is now acknowledged as a Gound Attack Fighter and not as an air superiority fighter, perhaps it is time to restart the F-22 line. We need an air superiority fighter that can win at least against the Sukhoi S-35. The T-50 remains to be evaluated.

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LEG July 3, 2013 at 7:28 pm

>>
The final software package, known as 3F, is designed to support a suite of internal and external weapons, including the GPS-guided Joint Direct Attack Munition, laser-guided Paveway II bomb, Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile, and infrared Sidewinder missile.
>>
This is the real issue because it's not even being acknowledged.
The F-35 was born in 1994, less than three years after the success of the F-117 when that airframe's reputation as indeed 'stealth' as a concept was based on the stupid notion direct laydown delivery of X2, 2,000lb, LGB. Driven right up the middle of an active terminal defense.
The F-35 capitalized on that -false perception- of how LO was best employed and so only sought to improve upon it by adding a pair of 'self defense' AMRAAM while changing the guidance mode of the bombs from SALH to PTOD, sufficient to drop through clouds rather than from underneath them.

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LEG July 3, 2013 at 7:29 pm

Since the F-35 is going to cost bundles, really is only needed so long as there is an active IADS, and is -crippled- by both the short range of the other types on-deck and the potential lack of offboard targeting in a PacRim, 'Near Peer' (DF-21D driven), threat condition; it needs to be leveraged in different ways than it's baseline design presumed.
The EA-18G is going to be hard pressed to reach the same operational depths, let alone survive there as an escort jammer. This means NGJ needs to be moved up the priority tree _now_, as a single-seat, LO-enclosure onboard jammer. The F-35B is also 5,000lbs shy on fuel as short on radius (400 vs. 700nm) which means it cannot escort as a LO-enables-LO fighter platform with a small wing sufficient to be competitive in sprint to pol at BVR distances. With the F-22 possibly locked out of Andersen or Kadena by preemptive A2AD strikes, this means the F-35C cannot handle it's own defense because it cannot sprint to boost the miserable 2-count of AIM-120D.

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LEG July 3, 2013 at 7:30 pm

This means you have to be willing to switch to a weapon which makes up the difference in total impulse. As the Meteor ram-AAM. With (say) 130 seconds powered out of say 200 seconds total flight time vs. (say) 40 seconds powered out of 120 seconds total flight time with AMRAAM D.
The 13ftX36"X810lb HARM is flatly not carriageable inside the F-35. Yet the most effective stealth is the finger-in-eye approach which keeps the enemy from looking for you to begin with.
This means we have to migrate a Quickbolt or JCM seeker to a _common_ long-range, high speed, missile which does fit into the bays, like the AMRAAM or Meteor. Because S2A threats dominate the kill listings of friendly air far more than A2A equivalents and with the ASQ-239, it should be possible to geolocate the threat within a rough coordinate grid and then let the plunging seeker do the terminal acquisition.
The GBU-53 is superior to the GBU-39 because it is short enough to fit in the bay and has a 2-way datalink as time of flight indicator. But it is still restricted by them glide footprint as long TOF.

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LEG July 3, 2013 at 7:31 pm

This means that a boosted bomb that deploys it's wings only after an AASM-like fast midcourse loft (under power) is a good idea to take the weapon to it's maximum of 30-50nm in as short and altitude flexible a TOF as possible. Particularly against cross-track popup threats.
Once you get the total downrange standoff as BRL and F-Pole limits up with powered not ballistic-glide munition range improvements, you can start to look at ways to improve weapons carriage as a function of signature.
This means that, at 80-100nm, you may not be able to mount rack and rail ordnance but encapsulated EWP or External Weapons Pods, similar to those of the Super Hornet International are possible. WIth four AMRAAM class or two AMRAAM + four GBU-53/B, you are looking at potentially a 5:1 (10 shots) improvement in a defensive A2A/SEAD weapons mix and up to a 2:1 (16 total bombs) improvement in A2G cleanup shots.
So that you can kill the S-400 Tombstone at 60nm with a lofted SHARK (Silent Hard Kill = pre-emission engagement using UAV/Satellite handoff) attack. Before closing up to 30nm to spike the TEL vehicles. Engaging a J-10 or Su-30MK type threat somewhere inbetween then being a function of time as much as munition reserves.

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LEG July 3, 2013 at 7:31 pm

Once the F-35 has fulfilled it's LO advantaged mission set, -then- you flow in the Legacy platforms to accomplish the theater objective. Which is to say that it's better to have a bunch of small bombs in the weapon magazines (more total DMPI) whch can do -both- the CAS and DEAD point target elimination. Than it is to have half as many, 2,000lb, building killers which are vastly overpowered for the kinds of expeditionary warfare we do today.
Comparitively, the GBU-12/49/31/32 as well as AMRAAM and Sidewinder have nothing to do with these kinds of mission capabilities whatsoever because they are all weapons whose operative conceptualization lay back in the 1980s when we had separate mission platforms for accomplishing the Weasel and Hard Kill elements of SEAD as well as Close Escort and TARCAP Sweep.
Those days are gone, the F-35C will be lucky to be produced in numbers adequate for a single squadron per deck and the PRC are anything but stupid. They will do all they can to divide and deny synergies of mission between the various service airpower contributors.
We are qualifying an IOC JSF aircraft with dated and functionally worthless weapons choices for the Pacific Pivot.

PavePusher July 5, 2013 at 2:37 pm

Kill the F-35 and we can pay for everything else the military needs in the immediate future. We should never buy a plane (or any program) before it has been fully developed, tested and approved, all at the expense of the contractor. If they don't meet budget, specs and schedule…. they don't get paid a dime until they do.

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BlackOwl18E June 25, 2013 at 10:46 pm

Give me a reliable source for this claim.

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Rest Pal June 27, 2013 at 10:57 pm

The coating on F-22 is vulnerable to rain and condensation. Haven't you heard about that?

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Old Jazz June 28, 2013 at 7:52 pm

William_C1, you are so full of shit. You make a lot of BS claims about the F-35 that aren't true at all. How much is Lockheed paying you?

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Ben June 25, 2013 at 11:06 pm

Well obviously, but every aircraft has its issues.

What makes an upgraded F-22/ Super Hornet mix a bad replacement option?

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Restore Palestine June 25, 2013 at 11:53 pm

100+ billion more dollars for R&D, 15-20+ more years of waiting, 1000+ new complex technical glitches. New price tag: 495 million dollars per copy for an order of at least 5000 to break even, before cost for fixing the 1000+ new glitches.

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JEFF June 26, 2013 at 10:34 am

I think F-22/Super Hornet would be a good air superiority mix but we also need a dedicated ground attack aircraft to replace the A-10. Maybe prop driven but something that can fly low and slow.

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Ben June 26, 2013 at 11:23 am

Agreed, but we're talking about a replacement for the F-35 here. The F-35 was never a good replacement candidate for the A-10.

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yogiberra111 June 26, 2013 at 12:00 pm

I think you spilled some of the crazy pills in your bowl of M&Ms.

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Kurt Montandon June 26, 2013 at 3:23 pm

Ah, yes, the most Wall Street friendly President in generations is a Marxist. Lovely.

Also, it's your Galtian heroes in the private defense industry that are the biggest leakers of sensitive technology. But you wouldn't want to question your corporate gods, now would you?

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tiger June 26, 2013 at 12:22 pm

Smart weapons make your A-10 a lot less special. The need it was built for is gone. A F-35 can deliver a Maverick on a tank as well as a A-10 would. Nor are there many targets a 20mm can not shoot.

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Biafra June 26, 2013 at 2:29 pm

Yes a F-35 can drop a smart bomb, but Small arms fire can take it down in no time, and its more expensive to deploy a F-35 for a simple CAS mission. And again the F-35 payload is far smaller than the A-10s….
CAS= Durability+Time on station+ Firepower+Precision

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blight_ June 26, 2013 at 6:57 pm

And the sellsouls who wanted a few hundred thou.

I mean, look at Hansen, who sold us out to the Soviets through several presidential administrations, and was a Catholic fetishist. Not that it has to do with anything, but traitors assume many guises, not just the ones you think.

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benjamin harrison July 30, 2013 at 11:10 am
tiger June 26, 2013 at 9:13 pm

Your A-10 is as stealthy as a barn. Without top cover it is fighter bait like the Stuka used to be. More expensive to deploy? Most are Air guard or Reserve units. Meaning they have to fly from the USA. They actually have less range on internal fuel than all 3 F-35 versions. Being able to take a hit is nice. Avoiding being hit in the first place is better.

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Ben June 26, 2013 at 9:28 pm

CAS ops take place almost exclusively after the air has been secured, so stealth characteristics are near worthless at that stage of the game.

Maintenance will be a huge issue for the F-35, guaranteed. More sophisticated equipment required, more maint. hours required, better runways required. It's far from an ideal CAS platform, accept it.

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Doc T June 26, 2013 at 10:19 pm

Excuse me, but what fighter? Who are we attacking with $200 million fighters? Drones are very, very cheap and there are no POW pilots. What is the last war that these fighters are to fight? How many Generals & Colonels & SESs have careers and mega-dollar retirements riding on this political budget breaker?

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Free America June 27, 2013 at 12:21 pm

Ben, that might be the dumbest post I have ever seen on this blog. They hate us because we arent muslim. They have hated all non-muslims for thousands of years. So if a group of people live on lands at a point in history then are those lands considered thiers for eternity? Makes no sense. Lands and borders have changed all throughout history. It is not the US's fault they hate us. If you are a "civilian" and you are standing next to a "terrorist" be prepared for whats coming to you.

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Ben June 27, 2013 at 2:36 pm

And that's the exact response that our media has conditioned us to say over the past decade. It's perfect, because as long as the public is fine with us chasing our tails in the middle east, achieving nothing (except instigating even more extremists), then the cycle of war and profit for defense execs will continue. We got Bin Laden and gave Al Qaeda a thrashing, that was the ONLY justifiable objective.

You really think that the Pakistani population is cool with us killing hundreds and hundreds of innocents (along with the occasional insurgent) with drone strikes? If that were happening in America by some other world power you better believe we'd be signing up to fight in droves to hit them wherever we could. They didn't start attacking us because we're American, they attacked us because a small handful of nutjobs decided that they didn't like us meddling in their area of the world. From there, the perpetual avalanche began.

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BlackOwl18E June 29, 2013 at 10:42 am

Unless you can show me a reliable source to show this problem has been solved your word means nothing to me.

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green July 3, 2013 at 9:28 pm

Nah, 90 billion more should be enough. 12 years max. Don't know about new glitches. 400 million per jet.

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green July 3, 2013 at 9:32 pm

Drones reduce politically explosive war time casualties and that's why the Pentagon has invested so much money on drones and deploying them en masse. Congress and the White House will have easier time selling new wars to the country, no matter how unjustified they are.

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