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The F-35 thread, Mk II

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The F-35 thread, Mk II

Old 4th Dec 2023, 18:12
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Originally Posted by flighthappens
Not a stab at Asturia - but for anyone to condemn the F-35 as being limited to “uncontested airspace” when carrying external weapons is… interesting… given it implies that every 4th Gen platform has that limitation, 100% of the time.
But if the F-35 is no better than a 4th Gen platform (and 95% of the missions don't require stealth capability), it sort of begs the question of why we need to replace all the 4th Gen aircraft with (much more expensive) F-35s...

For example, for CAS mission, everyone is saying the A-10 isn't survivable - hence we need the F-35 to replace it. But if the F-35 is carrying a bunch of external stores (negating stealth), it wouldn't be survivable either - at least the A-10 is built to take lots of punishment and still get the pilot home - one shot into the F-35's single engine and it's not going home.

Just suggesting we need some consistency in the value of stealth...
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Old 5th Dec 2023, 00:22
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Tdracer, my worry comes from the bird strike and the fire and nose gear collapses.

The fact a bird strike can write off a modern fighter does not bode well for keeping them flying if damaged in a war situation, if you need an autoclave or some other exotic material to carry out BDR where a previous Gen fighter could be patched with a coke can and some pop rivets, have we really moved on?

Survivability and sustainability are two major factors I see as important in a fighter aircraft
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Old 5th Dec 2023, 00:49
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What Nutty said.
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Old 5th Dec 2023, 07:14
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Originally Posted by tdracer
But if the F-35 is no better than a 4th Gen platform (and 95% of the missions don't require stealth capability), it sort of begs the question of why we need to replace all the 4th Gen aircraft with (much more expensive) F-35s...

For example, for CAS mission, everyone is saying the A-10 isn't survivable - hence we need the F-35 to replace it. But if the F-35 is carrying a bunch of external stores (negating stealth), it wouldn't be survivable either - at least the A-10 is built to take lots of punishment and still get the pilot home - one shot into the F-35's single engine and it's not going home.

Just suggesting we need some consistency in the value of stealth...

You seem to be missing the point that the F-35 can - if, and when required - go out there in an LO config - with a meaningful (albeit not hugely impressive) loadout.

Which makes it far more useful for those “contested environments”. Which is all that anyone has ever said.

As to the “95% don’t require it”. where did you get that data… 100% of environment in SHADER maybe, but I’d wager the ratio would be different in the South China Sea, or Ukraine.

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Old 5th Dec 2023, 07:22
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Originally Posted by NutLoose
Tdracer, my worry comes from the bird strike and the fire and nose gear collapses.

The fact a bird strike can write off a modern fighter does not bode well for keeping them flying if damaged in a war situation, if you need an autoclave or some other exotic material to carry out BDR where a previous Gen fighter could be patched with a coke can and some pop rivets, have we really moved on?

Survivability and sustainability are two major factors I see as important in a fighter aircraft
There are plenty of other cases of bird strikes where the jet has lived to fight another day. Just as there are other cases where aeroplanes have been lost to bird strike. 2nd Gen Hunter damaged beyond economical repair by bird strike

again - I’ll take the option where my survivability is higher, because the bad guy cannot complete the kill chain, over being repairable if I’m hit AND lucky enough to survive!
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Old 5th Dec 2023, 07:56
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Originally Posted by tdracer
But if the F-35 is no better than a 4th Gen platform (and 95% of the missions don't require stealth capability), it sort of begs the question of why we need to replace all the 4th Gen aircraft with (much more expensive) F-35s...
For example, for CAS mission, everyone is saying the A-10 isn't survivable - hence we need the F-35 to replace it. But if the F-35 is carrying a bunch of external stores (negating stealth), it wouldn't be survivable either - at least the A-10 is built to take lots of punishment and still get the pilot home - one shot into the F-35's single engine and it's not going home.
Just suggesting we need some consistency in the value of stealth...
Having the stealth card to play when necessary is important, but when F-35's are about you're not fighting one aircraft, you're fighting all of them. They have access to each others sensor data, as well as data from many other surface, airborne and space sensors. Your A-10 would be the equivalent of you walking into a forest at night that's full of telepathic big cats that can all see better, hear better and smell better than you can. It works because the technology is part of the fabric of the F-35 system. In theory you could try to put the same technology into an old 4th gen type, but it wouldn't work as well and would end up costing more than an F-35 anyway. The game has changed, and those constantly dreaming of a renaissance of their favourite cold war relic are whistling in the wind.
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Old 5th Dec 2023, 11:09
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Originally Posted by flighthappens
There are plenty of other cases of bird strikes where the jet has lived to fight another day. Just as there are other cases where aeroplanes have been lost to bird strike. 2nd Gen Hunter damaged beyond economical repair by bird strike

again - I’ll take the option where my survivability is higher, because the bad guy cannot complete the kill chain, over being repairable if I’m hit AND lucky enough to survive!
A fat lot of good if that aircraft costs so much that only a limited force is available, take the UK, not enough to full equip a poorly designed carrier, stupidity in the lack of catapults and angled decks limited the ship to what she can operate jet wise to a single type, so much for Nato interoperability.
Couple that with being unable to fully equip the carrier and the fact that if they did and the carrier is sunk, all those megga expensive toys are gone in one go.

It's ok to walk away from your written off F35, but attrition with the amount of jets available to the Uk will these days see us defenceless within weeks. It does give one the feeling that to produce an aircraft that is able to operate vertically that something had to give, and that is the aircrafts weight which means its physical strength.

Yes it may give you greater survivibilty but that is a fat lot of use if you keep them all at one of our dwindling number of airfields or on a carrier and you get a pre-emptive strike and they are taken out before they ever get off the ground.

While earlier generation fighters may not be a total solution, the fact they can be repaired and put back into service in a short period of time whilst being financally viable to purchase in greater numbers has a lot going for them, take the Israeli F-15 that had a wing sheared off in combat training, a replacement wing was installed and it was back in the air in a short period of time, try that with an F-35.
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Old 5th Dec 2023, 15:41
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Excellent article detailing delivery schedule by tail number and software / upgrade cost considerations

Building up the Lightning Force – when will the UK get its F-35 jets? | Navy Lookout
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Old 5th Dec 2023, 18:23
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Originally Posted by flighthappens
You seem to be missing the point that the F-35 can - if, and when required - go out there in an LO config - with a meaningful (albeit not hugely impressive) loadout.

Which makes it far more useful for those “contested environments”. Which is all that anyone has ever said.

As to the “95% don’t require it”. where did you get that data… 100% of environment in SHADER maybe, but I’d wager the ratio would be different in the South China Sea, or Ukraine.
Not saying the F-35 isn't needed or Stealth doesn't have value, but do we really need the entire force to be stealthy F-35s if most of the time the stealth isn't needed? F-35s cost 2-3x what the gen 4 fighters cost - and are more difficult to maintain - so you can't afford as many. As the old saying goes, quantity has a quality of it's own.

Oh, and as for the "95%" number:
Originally Posted by Asturias56
true but historically that's where it'll do 95% of its fighting...................
Pretty sure you read that post, since you quoted it in one of your earlier posts
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Old 5th Dec 2023, 19:03
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Originally Posted by tdracer
Not saying the F-35 isn't needed or Stealth doesn't have value, but do we really need the entire force to be stealthy F-35s if most of the time the stealth isn't needed? F-35s cost 2-3x what the gen 4 fighters cost - and are more difficult to maintain - so you can't afford as many. As the old saying goes, quantity has a quality of it's own.
I don't think you have the luxury of pre-supposing which enemy you might face in an uncertain future and what missions might be required. I would not be as willing as you to send pilots into combat in second string equipment. F-35 and it's planned successors are not a single aircraft, but part of a flexible air combat system that will become even more effective when they start operating in conjunction with low-cost UCAV's providing the necessary quantity. That is the future, and wasting money on obsolescent types should play no part in it.
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Old 5th Dec 2023, 19:43
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Originally Posted by Video Mixdown
I don't think you have the luxury of pre-supposing which enemy you might face in an uncertain future and what missions might be required. I would not be as willing as you to send pilots into combat in second string equipment. F-35 and it's planned successors are not a single aircraft, but part of a flexible air combat system that will become even more effective when they start operating in conjunction with low-cost UCAV's providing the necessary quantity. That is the future, and wasting money on obsolescent types should play no part in it.
But the F-35s (and apparently the F-22) are very difficult to maintain and repair. An integrated system is fine on paper, but will it add much value when half your (smaller) fleet is AOG with maintenance issues?
In the Gulf wars, stealth aircraft were few - so they went in first to knock down the air defenses to pave the way for the gen 4 stuff - based on the loss rates it was an effective strategy.
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Old 5th Dec 2023, 23:18
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tdracer
There are a number of "UAV wingman" things going on which address at least partly your points (stuff that's in the public domain).
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Old 6th Dec 2023, 00:39
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tdracer, I'm not going to fact check you. You should be aware, that most of what you posted is wrong. So I can only assume it's deliberate.
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Old 6th Dec 2023, 00:45
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Originally Posted by tdracer
Not saying the F-35 isn't needed or Stealth doesn't have value, but do we really need the entire force to be stealthy F-35s if most of the time the stealth isn't needed? F-35s cost 2-3x what the gen 4 fighters cost - and are more difficult to maintain - so you can't afford as many. As the old saying goes, quantity has a quality of it's own.

Oh, and as for the "95%" number:

Pretty sure you read that post, since you quoted it in one of your earlier posts
Firstly, they aren’t 2-3x what 4th Gen cost (which vary between ~$80M for a F-16/18 to ~$115M for a typhoon; the F-35A is $83M and the B/C are around $110-120M).

Secondly the missions they will perform in a contested environment are significantly more effective - and will need less aeroplanes to achieve, with less losses.

re 95%; apologies for my goldfish syndrome - but as pointed out it’s a made up number devoid of context.
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Old 6th Dec 2023, 03:08
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Continuing the theme of fact checking, I know of a country which will be looking for a pretty big credit note if B models cost the same as C ….
And as for Typhoons being the same price …..
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Old 6th Dec 2023, 07:08
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Originally Posted by falcon900
Continuing the theme of fact checking, I know of a country which will be looking for a pretty big credit note if B models cost the same as C ….
And as for Typhoons being the same price …..
It's always basically impossible to get an actual cost because flyaway prices typically exclude R&D as a sunk cost, but fwiw the closest apples to apples comparison you're likely to find is the latest F-15EX Costs vs F-35A: lot 4 should be 90mil USD per ac for F-15, Vs 80.5mil USD for F-35A over the next 3 lots.

That's a pretty good comparison of how expensive a 4th gen fighter is when you attempt to throw the latest toys at it: the answer is pretty much the same price.

Cost per flying hour is harder to establish on a global basis, but once again the USG provides us apples to apples comparison through the 2020 GAO report (can't find a more recent one - if anyone else has, grateful).

Broadly, while A-10 is admittedly cheaper per flying hour, F-35 is basically in the same price bracket as the other 4th gen fighters, and actually arguably cheaper. Same can't be said for the Raptor, but that's really to be expected. I'd argue that's sort of the point of the F-35 - 5th gen for the masses. It gets a lot of bad press, but when you actually try and find credible information, the numbers start to stack up, which is probably why they're winning competition after competition - why would you buy a Typhoon/Rafale/F-15 when you can buy F-35 for the same/less (unless you don't have access to the program or you have an industrial base to protect).

Noting these numbers are from 2020 in 2013ish adjusted dollars because... US govt accounting....


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Old 6th Dec 2023, 16:50
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Comparison of what you get for the $ is not simple when comparing F-15EX with F-35A - with only 2 x trial F-15EX currently in-service (with a 3rd soon) to base current maintenance costs on.

The F-15EX's major advantage in life cycle cost is the long design airframe life of 20,000 flight hours - compared to 8,000 on the F-35A.

You also have the huge weapon load carrying capacity of the F-15EX.

It will be interesting to see to what extent the next administration over here in the USA from January 2025 does regarding F-15EX procurement - whether the original F-15C replacement quantity of 144 is restored and whether there are additional orders for F-15E fleet recapitalization.

When Gen CQ Brown was CSAF - before he moved up to Chairman JCS - the NGAD / UCAV / F-35A / F-15EX mix still needed further study.

The only reason the F-15EX orders have been all over the place under Biden - 144 > 80 > 104 currently - is funding priorities within the USAF budget.

At least the Indonesian order for F-15EX will now keep the line open into 2025 for a decision.

https://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zon...want-out-of-it

https://www.boeing.com/defense/f-15ex/
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Old 6th Dec 2023, 17:03
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Bravo to pba and RAF. Good points raised.
Originally Posted by pba_target
It's always basically impossible to get an actual cost because flyaway prices typically exclude R&D as a sunk cost, but fwiw the closest apples to apples comparison you're likely to find is the latest F-15EX Costs vs F-35A: lot 4 should be 90mil USD per ac for F-15, Vs 80.5mil USD for F-35A over the next 3 lots.
Isn't one of the issues for F-15 EX cost numbers the smaller production runs?
Thanks for your further analysis and chart.
Originally Posted by RAFEngO74to09
Comparison of what you get for the $ is not simple when comparing F-15EX with F-35A - with only 2 x trial F-15EX currently in-service (with a 3rd soon) to base current maintenance costs on. The F-15EX's major advantage in life cycle cost is the long design airframe life of 20,000 flight hours - compared to 8,000 on the F-35A.
Ooh, nice catch. (I wonder what that does to the expected depot/overhaul cycle for both models).
It will be interesting to see to what extent the next administration over here in the USA from January 2025 does regarding F-15EX procurement - whether the original F-15C replacement quantity of 144 is restored and whether there are additional orders for F-15E fleet recapitalization.
I'd like to see the 144 restored. (I still think the decision to curtail the F-22 buy was a poor one, but that's one man's opinion).

​​​​​​​At least the Indonesian order for F-15EX will now keep the line open into 2025 for a decision.
Glad to see the line keeping warm.
Doubtless, the various salesmen are traveling the world looking for the next order that they can get - and then get approved by Congress. Nothing is simple.
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Old 6th Dec 2023, 17:21
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The stealth is good to have, but only as long as the other side hasn’t developed a method of detection and the capability to hit your invulnerable aircraft, ask Gary Powers about that.
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Old 6th Dec 2023, 22:04
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Stalled F-35 upgrades will delay next improvements, Wittman warns

SIMI VALLEY, Calif. — Delays to the F-35 fighter’s Technology Refresh 3 upgradeswill have a cascading effect that will hinder a major follow-on modification to the jet, a leading House lawmaker said Saturday.

Rep. Rob Wittman, R-Va., chairman of the House Armed Services Committee’s tactical air and land forces panel, told Defense News at the Reagan National Defense Forum in Simi Valley, California, he is “very disappointed” by the repeated delays in the TR-3 upgrades.

And he warned the delayed TR-3 rollout will create further scheduling issues in the more expansive upgrade known as Block 4, he added.

TR-3 is expected to give the F-35 better displays, computer memory and processing power. But software and integration problems have kept TR-3 from working, and the government has refused to accept the newest F-35s rolling rolled off the production lines of manufacturer Lockheed Martin in Fort Worth, Texas.

TR-3 was once expected to conclude in April 2023, but that deadline has twice slipped. The Pentagon and Lockheed now say it could come between April and June 2024.

Wittman said that deadline — more than a year late — is “very problematic, especially since we have a platform that we spent a significant amount of time and money on, and one that we know isn’t up to its full capability because of software inadequacies.”

Wittman said he’s not confident the Pentagon and Lockheed will be able to deliver on the latest mid-2024 deadline for TR-3.

“I want to be positive, but call me skeptical,” he said…..
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