Military AircrewA forum for the professionals who fly the non-civilian hardware, and the backroom boys and girls without whom nothing would leave the ground. Army, Navy and Airforces of the World, all equally welcome here.
For those that cling to the view that all is well with the Joint Strike Fighter, or JSF F-35 project
Not quite sure why you think there are people like that.
Of course all versions are very late and will cost much more than first estimated because it is being developed in the real world and I cannot think of any major and leading edge defence project that has not been afflicted in the same way over the last half century.
However, in my view, to go from this to talk of cancellation shows either a bias or a lack of understanding of this programme. What do you feel is the alternative to sorting it and using it for 40 years or so?
Firstly I should the text is not mine, it is the opening of the linked article, which alerted me to the others which is why I used it.
The question of whether the F-35 is essential is a moot point. The performance is only equivalent to that of the F-16, and the value of it's stealth performance against recent radars and SAW is increasingly questioned. The avionics and sensors are leading edge, but can be added to older platforms.
There are many in the USN who would be happy to stick with the FA-18 for many years until a suitable 2 engined replacement could be obtained. The price of the F-35 against the F-18 means far fewer can be bought, bringing into question the number of carriers.
Similarily, there are those in the USAF who would prefer to buy more F-15Es and reopen the F-22 line for AD aircraft.
The only force wedded to the F-35 are the USMC - but their Concept of Ops may be changing so that operating from the main USN carriers may be the logical way ahead, in which case commonality of aircraft seems sensible.
So, no, whilst the F-35 may be desirable, and perhaps now even politically uncancellable, the case that is essential is not indisputable, and as Sweetman et al demonstrate, is not undisputed.
There are always people/vested interests who want to extend the status quo for x years but of course if we stuck with that then we would finish up with little that could consider taking on the latest Russian/Chinese projects.
And concerning my statement about the USN being worried about the cost/numbers, also in Ares today (and eerily echoing the statement from General Houghton about drones shaping the UK F-35C buy) was the following:
In the wake of Secretary of Defense Gates calling for Pentagon bean counters to find $100 billion in savings over the next five years, the services are scrambling to cut costs where they can. The process won’t be easy says Adm. Jonathan Greenert, vice chief of Naval Operations, who told the Center for Strategic and International Studies yesterday that upcoming budgets are going to introduce “a new fiscal reality for most of our [officers] and most of our senior executive service. They’ve gone fifteen years on supplemental appropriations. We’ve been on them since at least ’95 … and we have really not had a lot of folks really need to be accountable for the fiscal performance out there because there’s always been a supplemental around the corner.”
Greenert didn’t single out any underperforming programs by name, but stressed that the Navy was going to have little patience for programs that are “just not going to get there.” He did say that the service sees multiyear procurement deals for programs as one of many ways to reduce costs, along with a greater focus on fixed-price contracts.
One surprise came while the Admiral was talking about Naval aviation. He described the UCAS—the Navy’s still-under-development unmanned carrier aircraft system, as “our future air wing” and complained that “the cost to put an aircraft in the air for one hour is currently untenable. We have to look at that.”.........
The co-chairmen of the bipartisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform issued today a series of draft proposals to cut government spending. In the defense arena, they took a bold stand on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, particularly the Marine Corps's F-35B variant. Their recommendations might be a shock to Lockheed Martin and some within the Defense Department.
These are, however, just proposals and do not have the force of law whatsoever. It will be up to the Congress and the executive branch in terms of how to proceed, if at all. How much the White House-created Commission decides to advocate for specific proposals is an open question as well. That said, these proposals could potentially have some intellectual and political force given they come a week after elections swept into power a wave of lawmakers who campaigned on cutting government spending.
Also, "it remains to be seen how much of the co-chairmen's plan makes it into a final set of commission recommendations due December 1," according to Defense News.
Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles, the co-chairmen, wrote in their list of "Illustrative Savings":
Cancel the Marine Corps version of the F-35. This option would cancel the Marine Corps version of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter because of its technical problems, cost overruns, schedule delays, and the adoption by the services of joint combat support in current wartime operations. This would save $3.9 billion in FY2015 and $17.6 billion for FY2012 - FY2015. At a total cost of $41 billion, DOD plans to buy 311 F-35Bs for the Marine Corps to replace the Marine Corps AV-8B. In its recent defense review, the United Kingdom decided to cancel its buy of the Marine Corps version of the JSF. Further, the sophisticated capabilities of the JSF may be less relevant in current scenarios. Under Secretary of the Navy Robert Workman observed that greater use of guided missiles and mortar could end the forward operations that would be performed by the Marine Corps JSF because of vulnerability. Also, because the Marine Corps version of the JSF has been responsible for most of the technical, cost, and schedule problems, cancelling it could accelerate delivery of the Air Force (F- 35A) and Navy (F-35C) versions.
They also proposed:
Substitute F-16 and F/A-18Es for half of the Air Force and Navy’s planned buys of F-35 fighter aircraft. With a planned total buy of 2,443 aircraft, the F-35 or Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) is the Defense Department’s largest weapon procurement program. This option would buy half as many as the 369 planned for the Air Force and the 311 for the Navy, purchasing instead the current generation fighter aircraft, the Air Force F-16 aircraft at one-third of the cost and the Navy F/A- 18E/F at two-thirds of the cost of the F-35. The unit cost of F-35 aircraft is estimated at about $133 million compared to $40 million for an F-16 and $80 million for an F-18E. The rationale for this change would be that DOD does not need an entire fleet with the stealthy capabilities of the JSF, and could rely instead on upgraded F-16 and F/A-18E aircraft for half of their fleet, a “high-low” mix. This is estimated to save $2.3 billion in FY2015, and a total of $9.5 billion for FY2011-FY2015. The option might also allow the services to upgrade their tactical air fleets sooner in case the F-35 is delayed because of additional technical problems, since the F-16 and F-18E lines are currently open. In 2009, CBO described a similar option that would have cancelled the F-35 program altogether.
The aft bulkhead of the F-35B BH-1 fatigue-test specimen has developed cracks after 1,500 hours of durability testing, Ares has learned. This is less than one-tenth of the planned fatigue test program, which is designed to prove an 8,000-hour airframe life with a safety factor of two. The bulkhead design was modified in the course of the jet's weight-saving redesign in 2004-05, switching from forged titanium - proven on the F-22 - to a new aluminum forging process developed by Alcoa.
According to Lockheed Martin,"the cracks were discovered during a special inspection when a test engineer discovered an anomaly." The company says that flight-test aircraft have been inspected and found crack-free and that flight testing has not been affected.
Engineers are still investigating the failure and it is not yet known whether the cracks reflect a design fault, a test problem (for example, a condition on the rig that does not reproduce design conditions) or a faulty part. If the bulkhead design is found to be at fault, it will be a serious setback for the F-35B program, potentially imposing flight restrictions on aircraft already in the pipeline or requiring expensive changes on the assembly line.
Six F-35Bs are included in the LRIP-2 contract, now in the mate or final assembly stage, and nine in the 17-aircraft LRIP-3 batch - which are intended to support initial Marine Corps training and operations. If a redesign is necessary it could also delay deliveries of LRIP-4 aircraft.
Bulkheads are a major structural component of the F-35, carrying the major spanwise bending loads on the aircraft. They are produced from forgings weighing thousands of pounds, which are machined into the final shape. They are among the longest lead-time items in the airframe, being built into mid-body sections produced by Northrop Grumman.
The F-35A and F-35C bulkheads are still made of titanium, as are similar bulkheads on the F-22.
Location: Quite near 'An aerodrome somewhere in England'
What do you feel is the alternative to sorting it and using it for 40 years or so?
1. Cancel F-35A and continue with more/improved F-22 and developed F-16? 2. Cancel F-35B. Does the USMC really need a stealth jet? 3. Cancel F-35C and continue with F-18E/F/G......?
Canada to receive CF-18E/F/G? UK to receive F-18E/F/G Sea Hornet?
Someone do the sums, but if the UK cnx'd its F-35C plans, could the RN's planned aircraftless carriers be equipped with the Sea Hornet when the ships actually enter service (or whatever the boat people's expression is) rather than 6-10 years later? Could the UK then afford 2 carrier Sea Hornet groups?
Like the United Kingdom, the USA may have to face up to a choice of what they can afford. Given the procurement process in the US, I would be surprised if the F-35 programme is cancelled unless technical problems add more to current delays. The F-35B appears most at risk for this reason especially as the USMC is the one remaining large buyer.
If futher problems are now emerging, the USAF and Navy may have to buy more of what is available whilst production lines are open for current types. If they do that, up will go the unit cost of the F-35 as it's bound to reduce demand for it in both the A and C Models. It would then be down to the real improvement in capability the F-35 can actually deliver to justify the greater costs of buying it.
Given this possibilty, what if the UK opted to buy the Super Hornet at a much lower price and in greater numbers than would then be possible for an F-35C only buy.
I am pretty tired of all our inter service nonsense. The carriers are being built and will need aircraft in sufficient numbers. Super Hornet seems to fit the bill and if we follow the RAAF approach, it would also beef up our Electronic Warfare options and add to the UK's air to air refuelling capability.
Any real issues with a mix of Typhoon, Super Hornet, UAV's and TLAM for the future say 2015-2030?
Maybe there is a case for having mixed fleets after all, avoids having all of one's eggs in the same basket. Remember the days of A4's, F4's, A6's, F14's in service at the same time. Or UK equivalents of Harriers, Buccs, Tooms and Jags........
The fatigue crack turned up in the aluminum-alloy bulkhead after just 1,500 hours of testing. The F-35 airframe is designed to last at least 8,000 hours and the intent of the testing was to push it to twice that figure. How serious a problem the bulkhead crack is remains to be seen. It came in an F-35B model, in which the titanium bulkheads were swapped for aluminum to save weight. If it turns out to be a manufacturing error, that's one set of problems. If it's a design error, that's another. There are already four F-35B flight test planes flying at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, with another built and ready to follow fairly soon. Based on a previously scheduled walking tour of the Lockheed Martin assembly line this morning, at least five more B-models are in some stages of the final assembly process and another four or five have to fairly far along. The timing of the discovery isn't good. The Pentagon for weeks has been trying to decide how to proceed with the F-35 program which continues to fall farther behind schedule and over budget, in large part due to problems with the F-35B. It has been widely reported that the Navy made have made another attempt to convince Defense Secretary Gates to drop the Marines short-takeoff-vertical-landing model. A Defense Acquisition Board will be held Monday to advise and rule on the DoD's plans for continuing with the F-35 program.
What do you feel is the alternative to sorting it and using it for 40 years or so?
Well John, I started this thread to generate exactly that discussion, and it seems to have worked !
Actually I would much prefer to see the F-35, including the 'B', succeed, with a view to their very advanced capabilities - those advocating 4th generation aircraft, and / or nailing on the F-35's systems, don't seem to have studied just what the aircraft has to offer or realise what's involved.
The snags with the 'B' re.heat pads etc sound a bit worrying though, but I can't imagine the temperatures & velocities have come as a sudden surprise to designers...
Plus there's the money already spent & experience gained - but I maybe have a more jaundiced view of politicians.
On second thoughts, in view of recent developments it would be impossible to have too low a regard for politicians, there used to a handy guillotine or wall with a gun opposite to deal with letting down one's country...
Canada to receive CF-18E/F/G? UK to receive F-18E/F/G Sea Hornet?
As a Canadian taxpayer, I support this strategy completely.
The CF-18E/F/G would be totally adequate for Canadian purposes as there is no prospect that Canada would need the stealth capability of the F-35. The Super Hornet would do probably 95%+ of the job asked of the F-35 at one third the cost.
If my numbers are right, based on the $135 million a copy price for the most recent F-18E's bought by the USN, we could probably buy 100+ CF-18E's and come out with big savings in acquisition costs and much, much cheaper life cycle costs.
This business of technology for technology's sake has got to stop - we (the world) cannot afford it!
Defense giant Lockheed Martin Corp. has received a contract worth $3.48 billion to manufacture 31 F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft for the U.S. and U.K. militaries, the Pentagon announced Nov. 19.
The contract for the Lot IV aircraft will cover the production and delivery of 16 short take-off, vertical-landing (STOVL) F-35B Lightning aircraft for the Marine Corps, four F-35C carrier variants for the Navy, 10 F-35A conventional landing jets for the Air Force and one STOVL aircraft for the British Royal Navy, according to the announcement.
The aircraft would be delivered by March 2013 by Lockheed. The total value of the low rate initial product aircraft is $3.9 billion.
The contract award comes as the Pentagon begins a review of the F-35 program, which has been hit by program delays and cost overruns.
Company officials remained optimistic.
"We are focused on getting fifth generation fighter capability into the hands of U.S. and allied pilots as quickly and as cost-effectively as possible," Larry Lawson, Lockheed Martin executive vice president and F-35 program general manager, said in a statement.
Perhaps it's for roughly the same reason that the first CVF will be a STOVL carrier; i.e contract and materiel already being worked on. Lockheed Martin are already in the process of building 2 STOVL jets for the UK in the LRIP 3 run so it was probably too late to switch to a F35C on this contract given our announcement to change variant only 4 weeks ago. UK needs these jets for operational testing and I imagine F35Bs will still meet the bill for mission systems testing vice being needed for STOVL-unique which is now moot for UK.
I would bet our next order is for an F35C just like the next order for HMS Prince of Wales will be for Cats and Traps.
This may sound nuts, but if the problem is the Aluminum bulkhead, the F-35 already has the Titanium bulkhead figured out. As I'm not in the middle of this program, no idea why the swap ... unless the cost of Ti made one of three models prohibitive? (That just makes no sense, to me)
What is it about Ti that is less attractive than Al for the structure? I am having trouble accepting that it's a weight issue alone.