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F-35 Cancelled, then what ?

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F-35 Cancelled, then what ?

Old 11th Jul 2016, 22:54
  #9441 (permalink)  
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Flyinkiwi, they did indeed deliver on their goal. Training for STOVL is much, much more simple in relative terms to the Harrier, hence my point about just needing a STOVL trg package to convert an A pilot to a B. Maintaining currency will be straightforward in the jet and sim.

Lone wolf, afaik it is A in addition to Typhoon and F-35B. The A can easily replace the Tornado deep strike capability and exceed its payload (with external stores) while maintaining Combat Air mass for the UK.

Evalu8er, there will likely only ever be one training unit and that will be based at Marham. It could deliver B and A trg if given the remit to do so. C is more difficult because there isn't a mock cat and trap deck there. So your question really is about the RN manning 2 combat squadrons and jointly manning the OCU. The answer to that is, "probably, in time" but I don't know for sure. As for the 138 make up, again, no idea.
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Old 11th Jul 2016, 23:19
  #9442 (permalink)  
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Working from increasingly long memory (so I could well be wrong), but the cockpit layouts of the A and the B are very nearly identical, with just an additional 'mode switch' on the left hand control inceptor ('throttle'). However, there are differences in the cockpit display software to support STOVL operations. The view forward is the same, the view aft isn't.

MSOCS is absolutely correct about the simplicity of flying the F-35B compared with the Harrier, and I'm sure that the amount of hours required to adequately train pilots in the basic mechanics of STOVL takeoff and landings will be very low.

However, where there will be a delta will be the training required to allow pilots to operate safely in the totally different environment of the carrier and its associated fleet. All the way from responding to mandatory instructions from flight deck crew to the completely different arrangements for recovering a formation to the fleet and the ship. However, I don't want to over egg these aspects - naval aviators have been doing them for some time, and the FAA has enough continuity from its exchange time with the USN to redevelop those skills.

On the practicality of a split fleet, it might help to appreciate where the major technical cost drivers are in supporting a combat aircraft. In my experience, they are avionics, propulsion and airframe systems. F-35A and B avionics hardware fits are very nearly identical, and there is a very large amount of avionics indeed on any F-35. On propulsion, I am told that there are some common components between the A and B engine, but there are a lot of unique B components associated with the lift system. Airframe systems have a great deal of commonality between A and B.

Again just my experience, but the actual airframe bits (frames, skins, etc) are not significant cost drivers.

My own thoughts (and that's all they are) is that it would be nonsensical to buy 138 STOVL aircraft if the standard assumption for the carrier is 12 aircraft at sea. I'd suggest building a fully joint support and training system that delivered As and Bs (and trained aircrew and maintainers) to the respective Services for their operational tasks - to the RAF and Air Command for land based strike and recce, and to the RN and Sea Command for maritime strike, recce and fleet air defence.

Hope this helps the discussion along - best regards as ever to those working in the puzzle palaces,

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Old 12th Jul 2016, 07:12
  #9443 (permalink)  
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Only 20-25% commonality between the models, and mainly in the cockpit.

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Old 12th Jul 2016, 07:58
  #9444 (permalink)  
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Ignore the C and whats the commonality between the A and B?
More importantly, whats the commonality for the 'major technical cost drivers' for A and B? Engine's comments indicates that its 'a alot'.
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Old 12th Jul 2016, 08:11
  #9445 (permalink)  
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Well apart from the wing, tail, fuselage, weapons bay and software, as Engines say's it does have common avionics.

However, with the age of the current sensors I'd expect an updated fit long before the RAF would order the A, and the differing roles would drive the fit even further apart s the design offices diverge. The software builds equally diverging.

That leaves the cockpit, seat and core engine. Unless the USAF changes the seat and upgrades to a new AETP engine.

No risk there then....,,

USAF Plans for Radical F-35 Upgrade Reveal Obsolescence


Exclusive: USAF Weighing Replacement F-35 Ejection Seat

Last edited by ORAC; 12th Jul 2016 at 11:06.
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Old 12th Jul 2016, 08:17
  #9446 (permalink)  
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I think if you are concerned over the commonality between the A & B you are missing the point.

If we choose to add the A to the mix we will find it has a near 100% commonality with all the other F-35As in the global fleet. Same is true of the F-35Bs, albeit with a much smaller global fleet size.

With the F-35 we will not be guessing on a UK spares buy to cover our presumed usage (before slashing it in a future mythical savings round) and trying to keep the aircraft going as a UK cottage-industry, with robbing as our usual spares bank. Spares will be governed by the false-God that is ALIS and unique fleets or fleets-within-a-fleet will not be the allowable norm. Think UK C-17 rather than UK E-3.
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Old 12th Jul 2016, 09:45
  #9447 (permalink)  
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If you are suggesting the MOD staffing and logistics tail for the F-35, whichever model, is going to be smaller and cheaper than for previous FJs because of ALIS I need an interlude to roll on the floor screaming in hysterical laughter......
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Old 12th Jul 2016, 09:49
  #9448 (permalink)  
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Over on Linkedin - a post from the MOD points out that over 500 UK companiies are involved with the F-35, producing something like 15% of the aircraft. Would I be right in assuming that percentage is higher for the B version - with the Rolls Rolls LiftSystem and STOVL controls?
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Old 12th Jul 2016, 10:48
  #9449 (permalink)  
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Post IOC Management of the F35 Fleets

We in the UK are never going to have a very large fleet of F35s I think we can all agree.

My point made earlier about if there was another variant bought of the F35 to think of the C was to do with management of the development, design authority etc, as well as the ability to refuel.

Once the development phases have been completed for the F35 I think that it is not unreasonable to think that the JPO will disband and the USAF take responsibility for the A and the USN take responsibility for the B & C.

The development agendas of the USAF and the USN may be different and thus changes to the A might not necessarily be made to the B at the same time or ever, making maintenance and training more complicated, whilst it is not unreasonable to think that the USN would progress the B&C in parallel.
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Old 12th Jul 2016, 12:27
  #9450 (permalink)  
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I might be able to help with a few points that have arisen in recent posts. Please forgive me if I get anything badly wrong, I'm not on the programme now, and I'm really going mostly on professional experience.

ORAC, my sincere apologies for not being clearer in my earlier posts. What i was trying (badly) to put over is that support costs (and technical issues) tend to be concentrated on a surprisingly small subset of the entire aircraft. Things like wings, tails, fuselage and weapons bays don't really drive costs. Flying controls systems also tend to be low significance items.

What really does drive cost are hardware items that need frequent replacement and/or rectification boy the manufacturer. Engines are the prime cost driver on most jet combat aircraft, and if they go wrong the results can be ruinous. The USAF had an absolute disaster with their engines in the late 60s and 70s, and the RAF had a fairly awful (and horribly expensive) experience with the RB199. Ditto the RN with the Gem in the Lynx. Of course, the F-35B's lift system has to be a major area for attention.

After engines, it would be avionics, but I would note that hardware reliability has been one area where technology has definitely delivered in spades. Disasters like the F3's AI24 Foxhunter are now very rare, and in my 30 years as an aircraft engineer I saw massive improvements in avionics reliability (and support cost reductions). F-35B avionics hardware is, as far as I remember, nearly identical to F-35A. There will be a different software load in some areas of the flight controls, of course.

The final area I'd watch would be airframe systems - generators, power systems, actuators, valves, switchgear, etc, etc. F-35B has plenty of these, and that's another area where any commonality would help.

And yes, the Uk does manufacture around 13 to 15% of the aircraft by dollar value. Add in items built by UK owned companies in the US (e.g. BAES Avionics) and I think the figure might be higher. Yes, the F-35B figure is quite a bit higher due to the UK manufactured lift system.

PhilipG makes a very good point about support going forward, as the aircraft moves out of SDD, run by the JPO, and into through life support, where the individual services rule the roost. I honestly don't know what the US DoD has planned, but I do know that a single ALIS system will be used to manage the support chain, and there was certainly an aim that where F-35s owned by a number of countries were operating together, they would all be able to access the system. I also know that commonality was a through life issue, not just in development. I won't try to speculate further, as I'd just be wrong.

However, I think it's reasonable to assume that overall configuration control of the aircraft will be tightly controlled by the US, and that will present a challenge for the RAF, who have, in my view, not always been totally excellent in controlling 'fleets within fleets'. The situation whereby only a small number of their aircraft can actually be deployed on operations at any one time will simply not be acceptable in the future, and it's my hope (as a retired engineer, but still paying taxes) that the F-35 fleet will stay at a generally common standard as far as possible. I think JTO's post is bang on the money here.

Best regards as ever to those putting together the support plans,


Last edited by Engines; 13th Jul 2016 at 11:47.
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Old 12th Jul 2016, 13:45
  #9451 (permalink)  
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However, I think it's reasonable to assume that overall configuration control of the aircraft will be tightly controlled by the US
I have my doubts, particularly as regards software and external stores.

based on the recent articles relating to the F-35i 9yes, we are getting into export versions), the baseline software is being regarded as the equivalent of IOS on the iPhone, where customers can add their own apps to control external devices and add new capabilities on their displays in the form of overlays etc.

One only hopes it will end up as the IOS model and not the Android.....

Israel’s F-35 App And Its Implications
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Old 12th Jul 2016, 14:01
  #9452 (permalink)  
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Ten to twelve years into the F-16's service, how many upgrades were added to the mission systems and capability of that aircraft? Given how long this program has stretched out, a similar "refresh" is about due, even though it hasn't populated active wings as quickly as the Viper did. They need to get ahead of any new fit as it will take some years to get it done, since testing and dynamic interface issues will be added to the queue of what's still being sorted out. Seems to me that this aircraft will never stop playing "catch up" as a program.
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Old 13th Jul 2016, 08:27
  #9453 (permalink)  
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Lonewolf_50, you raise an extremely important point. It's one of the reasons that Block 4 won't just be a single upgrade delivered straight after SDD is finished. Each of the US Services and PNs need time to bed-in, but they won't have long. Will it be long enough? Probably, but when Block 4.1, 4.2, etc all start to roll in with upgrades from 2019 we'll need to be careful not to overmatch what the customers can cope with. It just creates confusion and takes jets away from the line constantly.
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Old 13th Jul 2016, 09:25
  #9454 (permalink)  
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The F-35B lift fan is a R-R product, but it is produced by a US subsidiary.

The US ITAR regulations limit what defense-related technology can be provided to foreign governments. So foreign F-35 customers are not provided the best avionics/radars/ etc available. Of course, this does not prevent F-35 customers like Israel from developing their own avionic systems that might be better.
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Old 13th Jul 2016, 10:10
  #9455 (permalink)  
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The ITAR regulations seem to be applied unevenly then, since the UAE's Block 60 F-16E/F's are far more advanced and capable than the Block 50/52 F-16C/D's the USAF operates...

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Old 13th Jul 2016, 11:10
  #9456 (permalink)  
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RP - indeed.

I personally don't share riff_raff's view about not being provided the best avionics/radars/etc available. After all, Brit pilots are flying USMC jets in the USA and USMC pilots are flying Brit jets.
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Old 13th Jul 2016, 12:17
  #9457 (permalink)  
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Riff and others,

Perhaps I can help once more (but do please let me know when I stop helping).

ITARs - it's not quite true that ITARs mean that foreign customers 'are not provided' with 'the best avionics/radars etc available'. ITARs have been around for years, and their purpose is to closely control what military technology (and data, and related services) are provided by US companies to what foreign 'persons' ('Persons' can mean governments, companies and individual people). One of the key ways ITARs control what US companies can export is via things called Technical Assistance Agreements (TAAs), which take around 6 months to a year to put in place.

Remember as well that, unlike the UK, the US DoD generates and owns most of the validation and verification data that supports bringing aircraft and weapon systems into service. (Stuff like flight test data, environmental test results, EMC testing, and so on). TAAs don't cover DoD owned stuff, so strong and comprehensive 'Government to Government' agreements are essential.

ITARs and other US regulations can be incredibly restrictive, but the UK has been generally successful in getting access to 'top end' US military technology. The best way to ensure success is to make sure that any UK purchase of US equipment is backed up with a solid set of Government to Government agreements, such as Treaties (e.g. the 'Bermuda Treaty' that supported Polaris and Trident) or Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) like the 'STOVL JSF MoU' that made us a Tier 1 partner on F-35. These not only allow Government to Government data transfer, but they also provide essential support to US Government approval of TAAs. As ever, politics plays a big part in how comprehensive these agreements are and how much technology transfer they support. That's why Israel always gets a good deal, as does the UK.

However, (there's always a however) you cannot ever take this sort of situation for granted. When people in the UK think that our 'special relationship' means that we can still get a good 'off the shelf' deal without getting these TAAs and agreements in place, they get a rude shock, and our defence programmes suffer. That happened on Apache, it may have played a part on Rivet Joint, and it sure as hell happened on many of our UORs where we wanted rapid purchase of US sourced kit.

In the case of F-35, the UK is very well covered across the piece, and I expect that as a Tier 1 partner, we will get very good access to the data we will need. Will we get everything the US has? Probably not. Will we get what we need? My assessment is 'probably yes'. But it will require hard work.

Best regards as ever to all those working the detail in the documents,

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Old 18th Jul 2016, 15:38
  #9458 (permalink)  
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According to Flight Global, this thread can be closed...

F-35's Farnborough debut a welcome lift
It was still possible at the Farnborough air show in 2014 to speculate whether the Lockheed Martin F-35 programme would survive the decade.

That time has passed. Not only is a global fleet of F-35s now inevitable, the single-engined strike fighter is finally maturing before our eyes into the warplane that will soon be – for better, or worse – the world’s go-to aircraft to answer almost any crisis. The long-belated viewing of a UK-owned F-35B in the Hampshire skies confirmed a great deal of progress. This variant is technically operational, although the US Marine Corps has no plan to deploy it until next year.
But it not all sweetness and light...

But there is still much work to do. The F-35’s sensors remain frozen at technical specifications developed early in the last decade, and a comprehensive refresh is necessary as soon as possible. A global fleet must perform coalition operations, but the US government still has not found a way to easily share information between an international F-35 formation in-flight. The logistics and maintenance systems are badly dysfunctional and late, and Lockheed must deliver on time as the production rate roughly quadruples by 2019.

The programme’s management also could be undone, with Senator John McCain keen to eliminate the Joint Programme Office and divide authority for management and upgrades between three services. The F-35 is at risk of losing a unified leadership structure.
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Old 18th Jul 2016, 15:43
  #9459 (permalink)  
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More from Flight Global:-
Israel further assesses F-35B buy

The Israeli Air Force’s potential acquisition of the Lockheed Martin F-35B to add to the ordered fleet of F-35As has gained further momentum following a recent strategic assessment.

The number of short- and long-range rockets in use by militants in Lebanon and Gaza can affect the IAF’s ability to use its bases during conflict, the service says.

The IAF has formed special units equipped to perform quick fixes to damaged runways, but the problem remains significant.

“The operational need for the F-35B is clear,” an Israeli source told FlightGlobal.
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Old 21st Jul 2016, 14:41
  #9460 (permalink)  
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Seems that Lockheed-Martin is getting low on cash and may have to borrow money to pay their suppliers. There isn't an agreement with the US DoD on how much the next batch of F-35s should cost. You can read the full article from the WSJ here:

Lockheed Jet Takes Toll on Its Cash -- WSJ - NASDAQ.com

A bit of a "Catch 22" situation for the current US government and taxpayers thanks to the way the contract was setup from the get-go.
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