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Navy to Test F-35C on Carrier This Fall

by Brendan McGarry on April 7, 2014

F-35C_weapons_test

The U.S. Navy for the first time will begin testing its version of the F-35 fighter jet from an aircraft carrier this fall, according to the No. 2 official in charge of the program.

Rear Adm. Randy Mahr, deputy director of the Defense Department’s Joint Strike Fighter program, didn’t specify a date or ship for the upcoming evaluations. But he spoke confidently of the planned milestone for the F-35C, the Navy variant designed for taking off from and landing on carriers.

“It’s going to be the year of the F-35C,” he said during a briefing at the Navy League’s Sea-Air-Space conference on Monday in National Harbor, Md.

Mahr acknowledged hardware and software problems that have plagued the three versions of the aircraft being developed by Lockheed Martin Corp., from a tailhook that didn’t catch the arresting cable to a bulkhead that cracks to logistics software that improperly grounded jets. In February, the program office discovered that an engine fan blade “came apart” into pieces, he said.

But the issues have either been resolved or are in the process of being fixed and won’t threaten the Marine Corps’ plans to begin in July 2015 operational flights of the F-35B, Mahr said. That version is designed for short takeoffs and vertical landings, meaning it can fly like a plane and land like a helicopter.

Corps leaders last week hinted to lawmakers that the aircraft may not meet that date.

“We are tentatively behind schedule,” Gen. John Paxton, the assistant commandant, told lawmakers during an April 2 hearing of the Senate Subcommittee on Seapower. “The IOC is forecasted for July 2015,” Paxton added, referring to the date for initial operational capability. “We have every expectation that could be delayed by several months. It will continue to be conditions based.”

Lt. Gen. Kenneth Glueck, who heads up the Marine Corps Combat Development Command, also said at the hearing that the Corps would not declare IOC until the software is developed to meet the requirements of the service.

The Government Accountability Office, known as the investigative arm of Congress, in a March 24 report cited an assessment made by the Pentagon’s own director of operational test and evaluation that software problems could delay delivery of the aircraft’s most advanced technology by 13 months.

When asked specifically about F-35B operational flights, Mahr said, “the Marines have not expressed any concerns at all about the IOC in 2015.”

The F-35B operational flights will rely on a less robust version of software, known as 2B, designed to provide basic close-air support and fire such weapons as the Advanced Medium Range Air to Air Missile, or AMRAAM, and Joint Direct Attack Munition, or JDAM. Both weapons have been successfully test-fired from the aircraft, Mahr said.

“We expect to be able to show that that software is ready to deploy,” he said, adding that two more software upgrades, or “drops,” are scheduled for the next two months.

Mahr acknowledged “some challenges” with the more robust version of software, known as 3F and designed to provide the full suite of war-fighting technology, which is scheduled for delivery in 2017.

“We think we have four to six months of risk on that end,” he said. “We’re doing everything we can to meet that date.”

The program office has also made improvements to the Autonomic Logistics Information System, or ALIS (pronounced “Alice”), which determines whether the plane is safe to fly. A recent software upgrade to the system has drastically shortened the time it takes maintainers to load a webpage, to about 30 seconds from about five minutes, Mahr said.

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{ 101 comments… read them below or add one }

Far April 7, 2014 at 3:49 pm

Why O why can’t the navy use F-35B? Why do they require launchers and arresting cables for their jets. What is the advantage to them of traditional flight-runway jets as opposed to vertical lift? Please educate. Gar

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XB-70 April 7, 2014 at 3:48 pm

VTOL uses to much fuel for long rang carrier operations. I'm so glad to see stealth deploying to sea.

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Gary Gudlunus April 7, 2014 at 6:33 pm

Still, it must be cheaper to refuel or top them off once airborne, compared to the investment in all the hardware to launch and recover gear, maintain and supply parts. For the life of the carrier. The carriers could probably carve out more space for additional planes, once all the launch and retrieve systems are removed. The carriers could be smaller or remain the same for addition planes.
Does inclement weather encourage the current system over VTOL . Is it more difficult for helicopters and VTOL to take off and land during severe wind and wave action. Thanx, G.

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Dr. Horrible April 7, 2014 at 6:49 pm

How would you refuel them without using a non-VTOL aircraft launched from the same carrier? Carriers typically operate far from friendly land bases.

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Gary Gudlunus April 7, 2014 at 7:55 pm

Well, a very excellent question. Not meaning to be flippant, necessity is the mother of invention. A VTOL tanker or drone as such ? Just enough capacity to top off a few dozen fighters? What are the operation specs., for the RN carriers and VTOL s? I assume they too have long range operations planned. Thank you.

blight_ April 7, 2014 at 7:26 pm

The RN switched their QE carriers from catapult to STOVL, based on pessimistic cost projections for their electromagnetic catapults. Every other aircraft that takes off from the QE's is a helicopter. Presumably the RN will have to refuel their JSF-B's with…an Osprey, or rendezvous with a tanker from a land base. And like the USN's amphibs, supplies will also have to be brought in by helicopter.

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JohnnyRanger April 7, 2014 at 8:42 pm

Supposedly Boeing is developing a sort of palletized HDU refueling kit for the V-22, capable of carrying 12,000 lbs of fuel, which translates (according to my research, which is admittedly limited to EHow) to about 1,750 gallons. Not being a Naval Aviator, I'm not sure how that translates in terms of refueling, say, a 4-plane flight of F-35B's. Anyone? BlackOwl?

PolicyWonk April 8, 2014 at 9:31 am

This is true, and they are also adding the proverbial "ski-jump", which is not only inexpensive, but allows STOVL aircraft to take off with a much heavier fuel/ordnance load.

US LPD and LHA designs are notably lacking this feature, despite it making all the sense in the world and being a long-proven asset.

tomUK April 8, 2014 at 1:27 pm

Yes. The QEs are two white elephants – ski jumps mean you can’t cross-deck with non-STOVLs, which is a grievous error.

Beno April 8, 2014 at 3:25 am

Actually VTOL ( harrier anyway ) can operate in higher sea states.

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Beno April 8, 2014 at 3:34 am

Thats true ( simplistically ) but traditional carrier aircraft are required to maintain 20% fuel reserve in case of wave off landing or problems with arrestor gear etc
Which actually bring the effective operational range ( unrefuled ) down to a very similar place B to C.
The F35B has a combat radius only about 30nm less than an F18C.
Oh and you get a better sortie rate with VTOL, some say as much as 1.6 times in certain conditions.

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tiger April 7, 2014 at 4:04 pm

Basically? The C model is lighter without the need for a second engine. Thus it has more room for fuel & payload. The training for Vertical ops very different than carrier ops. The Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm will however fly the B model. The design of Naval aircraft is a very tricky thing. There is more to Naval aircraft than just a hook………

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Dfens April 8, 2014 at 8:58 am

There is no second engine in the B. It's got a lift fan that is operated by a shaft transferring power from the only engine to the fan. The lift fan and ducting take up a lot of room other variants use for fuel. Also, prop driven aircraft typically do not require a landing hook or catapult to operate from a carrier. They could be used as tankers. Hell, the F-18 operates without a lift fan and it needs to tank as soon as it launches to have any significant range.

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blight_ April 8, 2014 at 9:20 am

I wonder if the Marines would be amenable to flying old WW2 turboprops off their amphibs, or STOL aircraft. Probably not.

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Dfens April 8, 2014 at 9:59 am

A well designed prop airplane with a canard would probably be capable of landing and taking off from a small carrier without an arresting hook or catapult, and it would have enough speed and fuel capacity to tank a jet.

JohnnyRanger April 8, 2014 at 10:18 am

They tested OV-10's off of amphibs (successfully) in the '80's or early '90's, but it never went anywhere.

tiger April 8, 2014 at 1:52 pm

The prop driven comment is not correct.

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CharleyA April 11, 2014 at 11:16 am

Every "prop driven" USN aircraft operating off a CVN has and uses a tail hook for recovery, and a catapult for takeoff.

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Randy April 7, 2014 at 11:27 pm

There is a trade off in range and payload with STOVL. Ask the Russians why their SU27's couldn't carry anything but a very light Air to Air payload without a usefull range from their carriers..

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blight_ April 8, 2014 at 8:23 pm

Indeed, history repeats itself:

In 1981, the Soviet government ordered the abandonment of the catapult system as part of an overall downsize of Project 1143.5 carriers, which also included cancelling the fifth Project 1143 carrier and the Varyag. A takeoff ramp was installed at the complex, where takeoffs would be executed to ensure that the MiG29Ks and Su-27Ks would be able to operate from carriers.Both Sukhoi and Mikoyan modified their prototypes to validate the takeoff ramp. [...]Flight tests indicated the need for a change in ramp design, and it was modified to a ski-jump profile.

Also, none of the Russian Navy's aircraft were VL-capable. They were just STOL. Other confounding variables might be crappier engines or perhaps that the Russians simply wanted their aircraft to do intercept and relied on their anti-ship cruise missiles?

Edit: I was incorrect. The Yak-38 was VTOL. Considering the Yak-141 IP eventually went on to form part of the LiftSystem, I suppose the Yak-141, if fielded, might not have been so bad as the -38.

Edit 2: Yak-141 was a 25 kpound aircraft compared to JSF-B at 32 kpounds. Theoretical payload of the prototype was ~6 kpounds, vs JSF-B which probably carries 16 kpounds. LiftSystem and 3BSM puts out 186 kN of lift, Yak-141 ~80 kN.

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BlackOwl18E April 7, 2014 at 4:04 pm

Lockheed Martin is finally getting desperate. Boeing is lobbying hard to get funding for 22 EA-18G Growlers added to the 2015 budget and they are winning the arguments in Congress. The US Navy is publicly showing support for the EA-18G Growler purchase and is talking up the Advanced Super Hornet. The Navy and Boeing are both saying that the RCS reduction features of the Advanced Super Hornet have proven to be exactly as good as they had hoped. Keep in mind that they had a standard of making the RCS good enough to a point where they would not need a true stealth fighter and could instead rely on advanced ordnance and jamming to compensate against high end threats:

Link: http://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/navy-pl

LM is backed into a corner with its F-35C having never attempted operations at sea. In the past they were able to push the date of carrier trials further and further back with stupid excuses, but it looks like they can't afford to do it again now. It's time they actually risk this thing trapping a wire. I only hope that no pilots are killed when this piece of garbage has to do the controlled crash that is landing on an aircraft carrier.

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blight_ April 7, 2014 at 5:36 pm

If the arms market was still vaguely diverse, Boeing would've proposed a lightweight fighter based on the Super Hornet by now: single engine and fancy gizmos, but after the disaster that was the Tigershark nobody is stupid enough to try that again. Not without the US government as a guaranteed customer.

We still need CSA version 2 (or maybe the V-22 will be adapted for COD, ASW, AEW?)

I'm sure the -35C has trapped on land, but it's time for the real test, and somewhere in the north Atlantic in winter.

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tmb2 April 7, 2014 at 8:33 pm

http://breakingdefense.com/2014/02/navys-f-35-tai

"All flight test objectives were met,” Joe DellaVedova, F-35 program spokesman, said in an email. “We’re not declaring victory but last month (9 to 16 Jan) the F-35 team accomplished 36 successful roll-in arrestment tests at Lakehurst with the redesigned F-35C arresting hook system on CF-3.”

Whatever a roll-in arrestment means, they did a number of them recently.

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mrlee April 8, 2014 at 1:54 am

When the Marines first got the Harriers, the only let the best of the best fly them. But as things went alright, they let less experienced pilots fly them, and that is when the accidents started. Studying this data, they realized that the pilots needed more training before they could fly the Harrier, and then it was alright. Each new aircraft has it's own special problems to be overcome. It does my heart good that the Growler is doing it's job so well.

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Dfens April 8, 2014 at 9:11 am

CSA? From what I saw when I was on one of the CSA studies Grumman already has the best airplane for the job, the E-2D Hawkeye. Once that line is shut down, then there will be another big push for a CSA development program to siphon more money from the US taxpayer into defense contractor pockets.

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blight_ April 8, 2014 at 9:15 am

The airframe behind the C-2 and E-2 is long gone with Grumman.

The Common Support Aircraft program already ran its course, and it'll probably run again when the aerospace companies need a shot in the arm before the financial statements go out.

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Dfens April 8, 2014 at 10:13 am

It's shut down now? The Navy hates anything without a jet engine and a pointy nose.

Godzilla April 9, 2014 at 10:10 pm

There already is a lightweight fighter with a single Hornet engine. The Saab Gripen. The Gripen NG is supposed to use the Super Hornet engine. Sales have been somewhat limited. Too many 2nd hand F-16s around.

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Instep April 7, 2014 at 7:33 pm

My only question is how is the Advanced Super Hornet as good as they hoped if there are none in existence to prove it?

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BlackOwl18E April 7, 2014 at 7:37 pm

You clearly didn't take the time to read the article I posted in the link…

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Dfens April 8, 2014 at 9:43 am

I've got to admit, Boeing did a better job on those conformal tanks than I envisioned they would. Sadly they could have designed tanks that would have actually improved the aerodynamics of the F-18, but they didn't know how.

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Dfens April 8, 2014 at 10:03 am

As for Lockheed being desperate with the F-35, you really should stop repeating Boeing propaganda. It just makes you look like you don't know anything about airplanes.

CharleyA April 11, 2014 at 11:24 am

Wrong. The CFTs actually reduce drag in some regimes.

Charles James Haas April 8, 2014 at 11:49 pm

Hmmm don't think one Flight Global article is going to make the difference here. If you hear at the Sea-Air-Space Convention for a call for more Super Hornets, then you might have an argument.

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Bernard April 7, 2014 at 4:05 pm

Over $400 billion spent and it still hasn't demonstrated carrier takeoff and landing?

"The F-35B operational flights will rely on a less robust version of software"
How is that good news? Do really want a plane with a human pilot using less robust software?

We should just wait until the X-47B is ready and dump this thing while we still can.

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Kostas April 7, 2014 at 8:18 pm

Yes lets buy x47 to see them landing in Iran for a free transfer of knowledge, great idea!

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Bernard April 8, 2014 at 9:56 am

So you believe everything Iran tells you? Interesting…

A self destructing X-47B would not be technically challenging to design. By the time the F-35B can land on a carrier the X-47B will be able to drop ordinance in contested airspace.

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Steven Szabo April 8, 2014 at 6:32 pm

The F-35B has already performed numerous landings on carriers…this article is about the F-35C…

Here's a video from 2011 of the F-35B doing ship testing…in case you didn't believe me: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ki86x1WKPmE

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mrlee April 8, 2014 at 1:58 am

I could just imagine if this was WWII, and you were lashing out with your tirades against the F-4-U Corsair, about it's problems landing on a carrier. But that bird at it's time was the one choice that did the job best.

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blight_ April 8, 2014 at 9:27 pm

The Navy wasn't betting the farm on the Corsair.

They had the Wildcat and both Corsair and Hellcat were being put through their paces. Hellcat went out first. Corsair production went to the UK and the Marines, who launched them from land bases.

I imagine the design issues that made landing on a CV difficult might also make landings on airstrips tricky: though with less pressure.

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Ward April 8, 2014 at 3:48 am

Ah noo, when something goes wrong they'll just hit the any key

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Guest April 9, 2014 at 2:23 pm

Where did you get that "$400 billion spent" from? Not even close in reality.

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Praetorian April 9, 2014 at 3:03 pm

I don’t think you have that right Bernard. The 400 billion was a projected or estimated cost of 1700 aircraft for all three services. That Projected cost has come down by 68 billion dollars. New projected cost for those aircraft is 332 billion.
So no we have not spent 400 billion as of yet.

http://www.dodbuzz.com/2014/04/01/auditors-f-35-cost-slid-3-to-332-billion/

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CharleyA April 11, 2014 at 11:36 am

The savings are based on projections and a lot of assumptions, so I wouldn't count my chickens yet. There is a very long way to go to reduce the B/Cs URF from current levels down to something affordable. Gen Bogdan predicts the -A URF to be $80-85M in 2019 (in FY19$) from about $119M (in FY15$) today. That's a 33% reduction and a pretty bold prediction considering that the F135 engine is not going to get any cheaper.

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Lance April 7, 2014 at 4:29 pm

Don't worry this plane will be delayed again so this date wont be correct by several months.

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Big-Dean April 7, 2014 at 4:34 pm

Nah, they'll come up with another "software glitch" excuse and say that the software needed to land on a carrier needs to be rewritten. but they'll be sure to have it done within 5 years and under $75 million, for sure, swear on their mother's graves

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Kostas April 7, 2014 at 7:21 pm

The F35B is a breakthrough in the fighter design: a fully featured fighter with STOVL capabilities. It is very unfortunate that the USAF and USN have not procured the same design, but the chose conventional designs with marginal advantages in range (450 vs 590 and 640 miles) and in the internal carriage (1000 lbs weapons vs 2000lbs). The STOVL capability will give us overnight 7 ships with mini-aircraft carrier capabilities (the LHAs). My impression is that the main reason the USAF and the USN objected to the F35B is that if they procured the aircraft, the need for a separate air branch or the USN air branch would be obviated. I believe that the US army should procure its own F35Bs for organic fire support, since the USAF is not willing to buy them. Imagine how much less the refueling and the rearming times would be by having forward operating bases. Imagine how much the USN capabilities would be upgraded by having a small 100-150 meters long mini-aircraft carriers. No need to hold ships and submarines for aircraft carrier protection. Forward the mini-aircraft carriers much closer to the operations area. What we need is: buy only F35Bs, develop a tanker version of the V22.

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Gary Gudlunus April 7, 2014 at 8:05 pm

I'm aboard with your ideas. The VTOL s are so much more flexible, in so many ways. How long has the Harrier served the RN and our marines?

Yet, why doesn't the rest of the world navies rely upon VTOL s…, please? There is operational history here that fascinates me, yet no apparent demand for the models?

Something is lost in translation . Thanx, gar.

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mrlee April 8, 2014 at 2:08 am

Wear and tear. It takes more out of an aircraft to be strictly a VTOL, and it is more dangerous to take away the arrested landing capability of an aircraft. For an emergency landing, an arrested landing is safer than to try a VTOL.

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Bernard April 8, 2014 at 10:20 am

VTOL is a failed concept even STOVL tremendously compromises the agility, range, speed, and payload capacity of an aircraft while adding crippling complexity and maintenance burdens. So VTOL and STOVL sound cool until you find yourself out classed in the air by every adversary, compromised against enemy AAA, and ineffective on ground targets due to poor payload and range.

To add that to an aircraft that already has the maintenance burdens of stealth and the added compromises and burdens of multi-role and multi-branch demands is sheer insanity.

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tiger April 8, 2014 at 1:59 pm

Wrong

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tiger April 8, 2014 at 1:59 pm

Most do….

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JohnnyRanger April 7, 2014 at 8:53 pm

We have TWO LHA's (an old Tarawa-class and the USS America), soon to be three. The others are LHD's, and we have EIGHT of those. Still pretty bad-ass, even if we don't use them as mini-carriers.

The F-35B is NOT a CAS platform.

A tanker version of the V-22 is supposedly in the works.

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Kostas April 7, 2014 at 9:20 pm

Thanks for the correction on the lha/lhd numbers. The F35B is a CAS platform, the traditional CAS where targets where visually identified and targeted is not a reasonable option in a modern high threat environment. The same applies for the attack helicopters, they are too large EM and IR targets vulnerable to AAM missiles. The future CAS is from high above with small diamteter bombs and Griffin type weapons. Anything else is simply not survivable in a high threat environment. Lets not make the mistake and generalize the Afghanistan experience to a future war. We want armed forces able to defeat Russian and chinese military and not a bunch of rifle armed untrained guerillas.

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JohnnyRanger April 7, 2014 at 9:33 pm

Completely disagree. As long as American infantry face the risk of direct fire, whether from primal cave-dwellers or modern combined-arms formations, there exists a need for robust aircraft, flown by courageous pilots, employing advanced tactics and sophisticated countermeasures, to place eyes on, verify their targets, and place ordnance danger-close. Precision weaponry delivered from on high is great when you can manage to do so. That is simply not always the case.

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Kostas April 8, 2014 at 12:55 am

We obviously disagree on what is the optimal CAS platform. However, the STOVL capability of the F35B means that it can rearm/refuel much closer to the operations' area, thus reducing the turnover time. Moreover, it would be able to loiter much longer in the operations' area since it would not spend fuel on transit. Overall that would mean that fewer aircrafts would be necessary for the same mission.In addition we won't have to secure and operate large, expensive airfields that would also be highly vulnerable to an attack by a potent adversary. I could write much more about the advantages of the F35B, but the USAF-USN did not see all these advantages. I am trying to think of what their arguments against F35B might be, because I have not seen anything convincing so far.

I believe that we can save big $ by merging redundant organizations such as USAF-USN air branch-USMC air branch, Coast Guard-USN, USMC-US Army. I know that many would come up shouting at me about ignorance for the tradition etc etc BUT I would rather spend money on REAL military power rather than bureaucracy and outdated concepts. And we shouldn't forget that we have a finite military budget that should be spent on the most cost-effective programs.

tiger April 8, 2014 at 2:03 pm

By your thought process, we should still have Buglers & sabers…. times change. So do tactics.

afret1991 April 8, 2014 at 1:08 pm

Close air support means just that. Close to the earth, down and dirty, see and defeat the enemy. A billion dollar high flyer is totally inappropriate for such a mission. Dual engines are a MUST have and the A10 STILL has no peer.

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tiger April 8, 2014 at 2:04 pm

Enough with the Jet Stuka fan club worship…

tiger April 8, 2014 at 2:00 pm

"The F-35B is NOT a CAS platform"

.Wrong

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Big-Dean April 8, 2014 at 12:43 am

Your so right Kostas Bob, I just hope they get the self-awareness software going soon, I hear that the HAL 9000 feature is really something to behold

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CharleyA April 11, 2014 at 11:44 am

Aircraft carriers with a complement less than 40 aircraft are severely limited in their effectiveness – it's been shown in countless studies over the years. LHA/Ds and other glorified helicopter carriers are more suited for limited operations against weak opponents, and TRAP missions near permissive shorelines.

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Hunter76 April 7, 2014 at 7:21 pm

The turkey is done.

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peters April 9, 2014 at 12:52 am

depends on what you mean by "the turkey is done."

Lockheed Martin and friends are still cooking it as of today, and sending the bills for costs and premium to their puppets in Washington DC.

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Louie April 8, 2014 at 8:16 am

This thing is going to be OUT DATED before it is fielded what a waist

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TonyC. April 8, 2014 at 9:14 am

This ought to be an interesting chain of events. if the aircraft can reliably land using the arresting gear, then it has a good chance of being successful. If not, there isn't much chance for the US Navy to use the F-35C and they should consider the F-35B instead. The US Navy has been down this road before with the FB-111 program. Now for the F-35 program office, make it or break it time.

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Juramentado April 8, 2014 at 9:46 am

The new LHAs only have a notional plan to deploy an all F-35 aviation group, it’s limited by the ship’s overall capacity for avgas and magazine size. In any case, 6 JSFs per deck aren’t going to make that much of a difference in a theater size conflict. The urgent need is for CAS and battlefield interdiction, regardless of how appropriate those roles are perceived for the platform as designed. LHA primary mission is still to deliver the Marines ashore; notably the third new LH will restore the well deck which acknowledges the operational limits of aerial lift.

As far as the Growler, the emphasis on additional units is to enable NIF-CA TTP. CVW’s ideally need eight Growlers to meet up-airframe requirements and on-station needs, but they’ll live with seven aboard if Congress approves the extra 22 airframes. That has NOTHING to do with Advanced SH being better than F-35. Boeing is simply trying to capitalize on the conversion they did with Silent Eagle and hopes to recreate that success with the Hornet platform. They’re better off trying to flog that solution to current Hornet Air Forces like Canada and AU, but no one’s biting. JSF is here to stay and the SoKOR buy just made it all the more inevitable that LM will make the foreign sales they desire. The devil is in two places – the numbers committed for hard buys in the next 5-10 years, and whether security partners like Singapore ante up.

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CharleyA April 11, 2014 at 11:45 am

Stop supplying facts, some people here don't like them….

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Dfens April 8, 2014 at 9:48 am

We pay Lockheed more for every day they can drag this program out. Did you think that would encourage them to finish faster? We will do the same for the next program too, and every time they screw up we will give them more money to fix what they shouldn't have screwed up in the first place. Maybe they won't realize that on the next program so (of course) it will be better. The next program is always better, right up to the day it goes into production.

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afret1991 April 8, 2014 at 1:17 pm

After 24 yrs in the military I really never believed that the planners would create another 'aardvark' to do the work of the tough as nuts A-10. A billion $$$ stealth fighter used for CAS is a travesty. A stealthy STOL flying at high altitudes trying to provide CAS is about as useful as a screen door on a Boomer. To do CAS, ya gotta see em to kill em. Y gotta have FIREPOWER, lots of it, dual engines for redundancy and LONG loiter time. The F-35-T(urkey) is NOT that plane! I n fact some are doubtful that its a plane in any sense of the imagination. Hey! the Raptor would eat them for lunch.

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tiger April 8, 2014 at 2:09 pm

Which why the B-1 & B-52 have done the heavy support lately. Not your A-10. You still ignore the A-10 like the Stuka of old is great, until it faces opposition. It is still not going to out run or out fly a MiG or SU.

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afret1991 April 8, 2014 at 2:33 pm

Obviously, that's why we have FA 18's and F 22's and others. Different craft for different missions. history has shown us the 1 plane for everything concept is not only bogus its dangerous and unworthy of consideration. The F35 is looking like a dog with a short tail and not a very good choice. A raptor would wipe em out.

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Thunderbirds April 8, 2014 at 10:45 pm

What a bunch of bull, A-10s have participated in desert storm, desert shield, Iraqi freedom, etc. They didn’t call in B-52s for air support on the ground.B-52s are just that, B= Bomber, A= Attack. A-10s are for close in ground support, not saying that fighters like the F-15, F-18, etc. didn’t help our troops out,

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Thunderbirds April 8, 2014 at 10:47 pm

Apr 08 – 10:45 pm
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What a bunch of bull, A-10s have participated in desert storm, desert shield, Iraqi freedom, etc. They didn’t call in B-52s for air support on the ground.B-52s are just that, B= Bomber, A= Attack. A-10s are for close in ground support, not saying that fighters like the F-15, F-18, etc. didn’t help our troops out,

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Gary Gudlunus April 8, 2014 at 1:22 pm

I'm enjoying the debates regarding F-35B vs 35C.., it is long overdue. Large carriers and fixed, long runways, are becoming obsolete. I recall, one of the parameters regarding the Harrier, was the anticipation that land war in Europe , would destroy all air bases, within the first hour. All fighters would have to disperse to wooded areas next to the autobahns. The Harrier would be the easiest to recover, hide, and re-launch, for the next attack against Soviet tank armies. Traditional fighters requiring longer runways, would find their options deteriorating by the hour. They would crash land and unable to play anymore. Eisenhower appreciated this and pushed for the U.S. to construct the highway system coast to coast and north to south, not only to rush and reposition fighting units and supplies, but to also provide alternatives to fixed airbases. He remembered what we did to cripple Nazi Germany. How long do we expect our fixed bases and large carriers to remain available in the Pacific, after several days of ICBMs and the inevitable penetration of the adversaries of our defenses. I believe we hold our technology and a ability to protect these vulnerable assists to the level of Hubris. Every conflict teaches us new and terrible lessons. IEDs anyone? I believe the Marines are practical and realistic. They reflect and learn from past experiences. They must anticipate better, since they truly are the tip of the spear and shock troops. Give credit where it is rightfully due.
Therefore the F-35B.

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Gary Gudlunus April 8, 2014 at 2:10 pm

Anyone who survived because an A10 did it's job, will worship the beast forever. Those who criticize it have never been up close and personal. Slink away if your a non-bloodied critic.

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Gary Gudlunus April 8, 2014 at 2:16 pm

The A10, was designed to outrun and out gun a soviet tank, bunkers and just about anything else moving upon the ground. The hi-fly boys are suppose to have its back.

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SMSgt Mac April 8, 2014 at 8:31 pm

The 'tank-killer' came later. The A-10 was initially designed to operate against hardened targets in a relatively permissive environment. the days where we can afford to have a one trick pony that can't survive without top cover in a non-permissive environment are over.

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Donald Bacon April 8, 2014 at 7:10 pm

Anatomy of a coverup: The carrier variant tailhook problem was identified 32 months ago, a fix declared simple 27 months ago, the first fly-in arrestment was 18 months ago, and recently the redesign was declared a success in ground testing and it will go to the boat — in 6 months. The resigned arrestment system added 139 pounds to the plane, but there were no structural changes to the airframe. (Wow, that's a heavy hook.)

Aug 2011
All eight run-in/rolling tests undertaken at NAS Lakehurst in August 2011 to see if the F-35C could catch a wire with the tail hook have failed.

Jan 2012
Lockheed: "The good news is that it's fairly straight forward and isolated to the hook itself," said Tom Burbage, Lockheed program manager for the F-35 program. "It doesn't have secondary effects going into the rest of the airplane."

Mar 2012
O'Bryan, LM: Boat trials may slip into early 2014 as a result of the design changes, which include a shape redesign to better capture the arrester wire and a fix to the hold-down damper to add pressure.

Aug 2012
First F-35C Fly-In Arrestment: Navy Lt. Chris Tabert accomplished the first fly-in arrestment into the MK-7 arresting gear cable by an F-35C at JB McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey.

Jan 2013
DOT&E 2012 Test report: Rollover and flight tests were conducted with CF-3 at Patuxent River and Lakehurst using new hook point and new holddown damper design. Initial loads and sizing study completed showed higher than predicted loads, impacting the upper portion of the arresting hook system, referred to as the “Y frame,” where loads are translated from the hook point to the aircraft) and hold down damper.

Jan 2014
DOT&E 2013 Test Report: The test team modified CF-3 with the new arresting hook system began on-aircraft testing with rolling engagements in late CY13. The program added 139 pounds to the F-35C weight status in May 2013 to account for the redesigned arresting hook system. The program added 139 pounds to the F-35C weight status in May 2013 to account for the redesigned arresting hook system.

Apr 2014
Admiral Mahr: The initially deficient tail hook of the F-35C carrier variant has been redesigned and proven at the Navy’s carrier suitability test site in Lakehurst, N.J., without requiring structural changes to the airframe, Mahr said. The redesigned tail hook catches an arresting wire “comparable to that of legacy airplanes, including the F-18,” he said. “Nobody catches the wire every time, but we’re in the high 90-percent [range].

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SMSgt Mac April 8, 2014 at 8:26 pm

LOL! Looks like we'll have to add "arresting gear systems" to the long an growing list of things Don Bacon "don't know jack' about: both 'in general' AND as it applies to the F-35.
Do tell us Don, exactly how' light' do you think arresting gear systems are? What do you know about the design approach of the F-35C's hook?
BTW: I noticed in your timeline you forgot about the part that the Navy provided a flawed model of arrestment wire characteristics to 'design to' in the first place. Simple oversight I'm sure.

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William_C1 April 8, 2014 at 10:37 pm

Real carrier trails have been planned for this autumn for some time now. Would all of those shouting about some sort of coverup and the F-35C never being able to operate from a carrier just wait a couple of months for the actual results before resuming your usual behavior?

How the hell did this discussion get to the A-10? The A-10 isn't a Navy aircraft operating from a carrier. The generation of naval subsonic attack aircraft from roughly the same era as the A-10 (such as the A-6 Intruder and A-7 Corsair II) weren't even in-line with the design concept of the A-10.

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dubweiser101 April 8, 2014 at 11:47 pm

The first piece of good news about the F-35 in a very, very, long time.

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peters April 9, 2014 at 12:41 am

why is this a piece of good news to you? I don't get it. The F-35 was supposed to be fully ready for combat years ago.

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bdingo April 10, 2014 at 11:25 am

F-35C ? just take an aircraft carrier full of cash and sink it—that is how much a waste this program is IMHO

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JohnnyRanger April 8, 2014 at 8:00 am

I'm not saying that a "non-A-10" couldn't do CAS at all, but I do absolutely believe we need a purpose-built CAS platform to serve as an A-10 successor. Never gonna happen, but still…

There have been a series of articles / editorials on the defense sites lately advocating for the same thing; namely, some consolidation of our several air forces.

As a practical matter, much of the range / loiter advantage of operating STOVL aircraft closer to the front is negated by the fact that they carry less fuel due to volume and weight restrictions, especially if taking off with little or no runway. They would certainly be more responsive, which is nothing to sneeze at – the Harrier proved that in the first Gulf War, and probably the second and Afghanistan too.

Operating from an LHD/LHA, they would at least have 500+ feet of runway and a 20-kt headwind.

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JohnnyRanger April 8, 2014 at 10:20 am

No, it's not. E-2D production is in full swing.

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blight_ April 8, 2014 at 11:11 am

Greyhound production stopped in the '90s, but it appears that E-2D's went into production in 2010.

No plan to make anything other than AEW aircraft with the airframe.

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blight_ April 8, 2014 at 11:15 am

Every prospective JSF-B customer probably operates an amphib/minicarrier with a skijump. Thus, the -B must be capable of flying off those ships. I wonder why none of our amphibs have them. Simply assuming that American amphibs are bigger and don't need them still comes with a payload penalty.

I suppose it also means when foreign STOL aircraft can use American amphibs, but must plan for the fact that Americans choose not to have a skijump: thus if loaded as if they were taking off from a ship with a skijump they might be in for a rough surprise.

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JohnnyRanger April 8, 2014 at 11:21 am

I wish they'd consider an ASW variant…

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PolicyWonk April 8, 2014 at 11:40 am

I have read, that the reason why our LHA's and LPD's don't use ski-jump's, is due to the fact that if people in the US (presumably, those who hold the purse strings in congress) find out how effective they are, then the need for the very expensive carriers we're using now will be seriously diminished.

Apparently, the STOVL/ski-jump allows Harriers (and presumably the F-35B) to take off with a far heavier load of fuel and ordnance than is the case with non-ski-jump equipped ships.

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blight_ April 8, 2014 at 11:45 am

An ASW Osprey might be interesting, but the limitation in effectiveness is technical. The MAD or some kind of towable sonar is all aircraft really have to detect submarines, and these are comparatively short-ranged tools.

Using Ospreys as maritime patrol aircraft (or "sea control", the term applied to S-3's after they removed ASW equipment).

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JohnnyRanger April 8, 2014 at 12:10 pm

I read somewhere that they just didn't want to lose the one or two helo/tiltrotor spots that the ski jump would take up. Seeing as how the air wing is 80% helo/tiltrotor and maybe 20% fixed-wing, that makes a certain amount of sense.

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JohnnyRanger April 8, 2014 at 12:13 pm

You're forgetting sonobouys. A modified E-2 airframe could carry a s***load of 'em, plus MAD gear, a periscope radar, FLIR, and a few 12.75" torpedos. Just a thought.

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tiger April 8, 2014 at 1:50 pm

I think it is a deck space issue. Add a ramp & you no longer have forward parking space. When FAA harriers have operated on LHA's they just have to make a straight run.

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Steven Szabo April 8, 2014 at 6:05 pm

A VTOL tanker? There's a reason that all tankers are aircraft with massive wingspans, the amount of lift required to lift such a heavy aircraft off the ground is the exact reason why VTOL for a tanker is simply not an option. The weight of a fully loaded tanker is prohibitive to using any form of lift fan as the sole source of lift.

The B variant also has been reported as having the shortest range of the all of the F-35 variants to begin with, caused by both space constraints and weight, both of which are limited on account of the VTOL mechanics.

And as a third reason, the C variant has a larger wingspan and heavier landing gear to aid in carrier launches and arrested landings.

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blight_ April 8, 2014 at 8:18 pm

My understanding was that the only non-STOVL's are catapult launched aircraft, which could never launch without a catapult to begin with. And helicopters, which wouldn't have a problem.

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blight_ April 8, 2014 at 9:29 pm

True, though if we are going to emphasize JSF-B in the Marines they must choose. Maybe the LHA-6 and -7 could get a ski-ramp?

Perhaps if someone wanted to be very fancy, some kind of retractable ski ramp?

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JohnnyRanger April 8, 2014 at 9:35 pm

I've had the very same thought!

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Nadnerbus April 9, 2014 at 1:55 pm

You know, that is not a bad idea. Develop a bolt on package of gear that can turn the existing COD into a fairly effectiv ASW platform when necessary. Sonobouys can be launched from the ramp, perhaps wing pylons for a couple of light homing torpedoes, MAD gear is probably too much, but surface search radar is probably doable. At least having the option would be very nice, seeing as how the carrier ASW is limited to helos now.

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CharleyA April 11, 2014 at 11:21 am

MAD is highly overrated. Sonobouys are better. Wit the P-8 program electing to go without.

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JohnnyRanger April 9, 2014 at 2:35 pm

They could just yank the MAD birds off of the old SH-60B's and F's. I'm sure they could be re-engineered to stream at higher airspeeds without too much re-engineering. Too many SSKs out there that can sit on the bottom dead silent for us to completely forego MAD, IMHO.

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