Tuesday, October 08, 2013

F-35. Not yet operational but already obsolete?

via The Disaffected Lib.
The authoritative military journal, Janes, reports that Lockheed's overdue, overpriced and under-performing F-35 Wunderjet is already encountering problems with obsolescence.
The United States has embarked on a technology refresh development track for the electronic warfare (EW) module of the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter to overcome obsolescence issues before the system has even made it into service.This has seen the US Naval Air Systems Command place a USD149 million contract to Lockheed Martin, as a modification to a previous advanced acquisition deal and covers the "redesign and qualification of replacement F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter Electronic Warfare system components due to current diminishing manufacturing sources".
This is consistent with the criticism recently leveled by Aviation Week's Bill Sweetman that the endless delays in getting the F-35 deployed have played into its main adversaries' hands, allowing them to develop technologies to counter the airplane long before it even enters service.

This airplane has been in development/production for over 10 years now.  A quick comparison to the Marine Personnel Carrier which the Marine Corps is delaying for approx a decade (if we're lucky) shows that Marine officials believe that the tech will have dramatically improved in that time frame and all current competitors will not be valid.

What happens when it comes to aviation?

A look at the F-16V tells a bit of the story.  AESA radar, big displays, more powerful engine...its getting close to having everything the F-35 has except for stealth.

What does the F-16V have that the F-35 doesn't?  Better agility, faster acceleration, better low speed handling and if properly equipped with conformal fuel tanks---range that gets you close to what we're seeing out of the F-35.  Plus its cheaper and more maintenance friendly.

Oh and keep an eye on the maintenance part of this fellas.  If the USAF is an example and if the complete buy of F-35's is authorized then you're going to see Air Wings bigger than Infantry Regiment (personnel wise).

Obsolete, killing the Marine Corps budget and changing our doctrine instead of augmenting it.  Why do we need the F-35 again?


  1. I really think that money would be better spend in other things...new build F-15/16/18/22s...the new bomber,the new tanker.
    I still dont know what to think of the JSF...can it be saved?I belive that 2013 was the do or die for this plane.And it looks like it is a big failure...
    Of topic Solomon, i know you are an armour guy so:http://www.nationaldefensemagazine.org/blog/Lists/Posts/Post.aspx?List=7c996cd7-cbb4-4018-baf8-8825eada7aa2&ID=1294&RootFolder=%2Fblog%2FLists%2FPosts

  2. Sep 12, 2013--Lockheed Martin Corp., Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., Fort Worth, Texas, is being awarded a $149,041,442 contract . . . for the redesign and qualification of replacement F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter Electronic Warfare system components due to current diminishing manufacturing sources. ..Work will be performed in Nashua, N.H. (73 percent); Fort Worth, Texas (23 percent)...

    Now it could very well be "diminishing manufacturing sources" -- DMS -- which is not an unusual problem in acquisition programs which are way behind schedule as the F-35 is. But perhaps it's something else:

    Jun 1, 2006--BAE Systems' Electronic Solutions, Nashua NH, Delivers Initial F-35 JSF Electronic Warfare System

    Apr 21, 2009--Cyber spies have broken into the Pentagon and stolen details of the new Joint Strike Fighter, the most expensive fighter jet in history, according to reports. The Wall Street Journal reported that hackers had broken into the project and siphoned off "several terabytes of data related to design and electronics systems".

    Mar 12, 2012--Reports: Chinese exploited vulnerabilities in BAE's computer defences to steal vast amounts of data on the $300 billion F-35 Joint Strike Fighter

    Apr 24, 2013--Infosec 2013: BAE Systems Detica claims China hacking group has "restarted espionage campaigns"

    And 73% of this work will be done by BAE in Nashua.

  3. Here's a laugher from Barry Graff at "Why the F-35?":

    "Costs continue to come down in the program. Here's another example: The Pentagon has reduced its withholding of progress payments on Lockheed Martin Corp's F-35 fighter jet program to 2 percent from 5 percent after the company made "significant progress" toward fixing a deficient internal business system, according to a document obtained by Reuters on Monday."

    How do costs come down if the Pentagon pays L-M more?

    -- why the F-35?

  4. As I read this all I could think about was that Lockheed makes even more money off "re-modernization." If the customers have to pay more to keep it modern then LM gains more. Sounds like a good business plan for LM to me.

  5. I told you that the EW capabilities needed for protection will negate some of the characteristics of stealth. You can't emit and hide at the same time, and since they are upgrading the EW package already (the Russians basicly said "screw stealth, we will build better radars and DRFM EW packages to deny beyond LOS missiles) you can bet your bippy that in the sensor/stealth race that sensors are where the smart money is going. Upgrade a 4++ fighter with a new AESA/EW suite for pennies on the dollar compared to a 5th gen fighter? Money well spent.

    1. What I find funny is that there is a country in South East Asia already building its forces on that model right now: Malaysia. The Russians haven't been talking much about it but they made an advanced version of the Flanker designed for electronic attack, complete with advanced jamming pods and software changes. The most common nickname I have heard of for this Electronic Flanker is the "Growlerski." The Malaysian bought the modifications for a few of their Su-30MKM Flankers. The Malaysians also bought an advanced long range anti-radar missile Kh-31P, which is pretty much like our AGM-88 HARM on steroids. The Kh-31P travels at Mach 4.5 as opposed to the AGM-88 with a top speed of Mach 2+. The Kh-31P is a radar SAM killing beast. This combination brings roughly the same or better capability that the US Navy has with it's EA-18G Growlers and HARM missiles. The Russian defense corporation that builds the jamming pods also mentioned that they had already been exported and some people in Malaysia think that the buyer was India.

      Here's a post on a Malaysian Defense blog about their weapons: http://malaysiamilitarypower.blogspot.com/2013/10/enter-malaysian-growlerski.html

  6. Makes no sense, obsolete? Ok, then build the same argument the raptor and every plane every other country is currently designing that must also obsolete. (they almost all have the same problem of being technically inferior in certain ways compared to planes unburdened with the adaptation for stealth tech, doesn't matter really tho, stealth and surprise are force multiplayers in the sky the way firepower is on the ground)

    The f-35 is technically more advanced than any of those planes in a variety of ways. These sorts of claims are so inconsistent its silly.

    But fine, scrap it and everything else and just make Boeing build a 6th generation. My heart isn't set on the f35, but something needs to replace it and its not gonna be damn F-16s. Lets put you in an M60A2 with bandaid technology taped on and see how ballistic you go. That is what you are suggesting for the part of the army that is most important in modern warfare.

    Our country NEVER has numerical superiority and we always fight far far from home. Not controlling the skies is NOT an option for us. That is why you are never going to get the budget you have and its not the F35 stealing it from you, deal with it.

    Anyway, either the F-35, or some other plane built in its place, is gonna get the budget priority. It really doesn't matter or make sense why you rail on the F-35 for this budget reason. You're not going to be the #1 budget priority either way. Sorry if that sucks, maybe you should've been born to fight in WWI (but no armor really) or maybe WWII (but we already started to see planes starting to take over in many ways.)

    1. Will, you are a fool. Numerical superiority for us has always been a choice based on the equipment we build. Right now we can CHOOSE to build a small number of F-35s or a large number of F-16s and F/A-18s. We have a choice. I highly doubt we will run into trouble finding pilots for our high speed aircraft. We can choose to build a ton or armored vehicles or to kill these armored vehicles for a small number of F-35s. Our nation is rich enough to make the numbers of gear and we have a population large enough to meet the needs of the gear we make.

      The real problem is that none of the F-35s systems work right now, nor do they look like they will be able to to work anytime soon. The F-35 is not more advanced than older fighters if it doesn't work as advertised or even shows the potential to work as soon as it should be. The F-35 is in fact stealing the budget because it is the reason we are killing practically all our other programs and retiring perfectly good combat proven machines. Stealth will not bring us the same advantage in the future that it does now. It will not be a force multiplier nearly as much as it used to be within the next 5 years. The Russians and Chinese have already cracked the code for stealth and are developing counter-stealth tech. The only thing they have left to do is proliferate it around the world. We have a choice right now to invest in electronics and keep a lead on the rest of world, but that requires money that hopefully isn't already being eaten up by the F-35.

      We have a choice right as to what direction we want to go in and the F-35 is clearly the wrong choice, but it has the political backing to stay. This program is corrupt and needs to die.

    2. Call the pilots who want a plane with a higher survivability ratio the fools, why are you demanding our pilots should be more willing to adopt a human wave formation in outdated aircraft? Losing experienced pilots is one of the biggest losing factors in the air war. They are much harder to train and replace, history has proven that over and over.

      Stealth doesn't just hide the pilot, gives him the element of surprise, the first shot, and getting the enemy tail, it makes it makes it more difficult for some guidance systems to get a lock or hit accurately.

      How does numbers matter if one hidden plane with a lock can blow as many planes as he has missiles at once? You realize the future of multiple lock systems is already here right? And its only gonna be a bigger and bigger part of combat, its a one way street.

      And anyway, I don't think we can win at the numbers game in regards to china. There is more of them, they build things cheaper, they will in all likelihood outnumber us even if we concentrated of F-16s, and on top of it they WILL have generation 5 planes.

      So we double lose, kiss any prayer of victory in the pacific good bye.

    3. You are not thinking outside the box of stealth. There are other ways of doing things and stealth is an eroding advantage. The Navy has MALD-J (cheap drones that simulate aircraft), the EA-18G Growler, the AGM-88E, an assortment of advanced ordnance, advanced IRST with detection ranges greater than most radar, and classified upgrades for the Super Hornet that guarantee to make it outpace threats until 2030.

      You are acting like stealth will provide us the same advantage in 10 years that it does now. That's naive and foolish. Other technologies have proven to be cheaper and still do the job. Upgrading those other technologies would not only be much cheaper than stealth, but also just as effective.

      Those planes will not be hidden for long and stealth greatly limits how many missiles a stealth aircraft can carry. In the F-35's case that armament is only 2 to 4 AMRAAMs, meaning that at most every F-35 can take out 2 to 4 targets per sortie and that's counting on every missile hitting the target without being jammed or spoofed.

      And yes we can have a numerical advantage. Why? Because we have the numerical advantage RIGHT NOW. We have a head start on them because we have more aircraft of better quality and more pilots of better quality and if we focused on increasing those numbers and giving them the cheaper advanced methods of weapons for the future we will be fine.

      The truth of the matter is that right now we also have the best counter-stealth technology. We have a head start on China, but we are losing that because we have become wrapped around the highly expensive perishable technology of stealth and the F-35. To think that stealth will last or that the F-35 will meet the needs of the pacific in time for it to matter is utter foolishness.

  7. I agree with Will, the U.S. and her allies need to buy something and the F-35 has become the default option. It looks like we've all been snookered. The F-35 was conceived to be a light attack bomber operating under the cover of a large force of stealth fighters, the F-22s. Unfortunately there'll be no large force of F-22s, just the 170 built before the contract was canceled. That leaves the F-35 to operate on its own, much akin to the F-117, intruder-style, one or two ship units, straight into the target and straight back out.

    The F-35 is intended to penetrate heavily defended hostile airspace, hit a target, and get back out ASAP. Fighters have to be able to loiter to establish air superiority. That's not the F-35's role. In stealth mode with everything housed internally, it has limited range and limited firepower. Even then it has mediocre performance in speed, turn and climb rates and - a huge 'and' - no supercruise even with nothing hanging on the wings. To go fast it has to use afterburner and that sucks up its onboard fuel supply very quickly. What that means is that vital supporting aircraft, vulnerable tankers, have to operate well forward where they're vulnerable to an opponent's fighters and missiles. Take out the tankers and the F-35 could become a one-mission warplane. You don't have to detect the stealth warplane, you don't have to shoot it down, if you can force it to run out of gas.

    I'd like to see how the F-35 performs on range, speed and turn rates when it's littered with heavy, high-drag externals - bomb racks, missiles, fuel tanks.

    My biggest reservation is price. The F-35 is so costly to acquire and operate that the U.S. and her allies will be stuck with it for a long, long time. Some are talking thirty to fifty years in service. I don't fault Lockheed for this but these are really Beta-versions of "fifth generation" fighter technology. Leaving aside the F-117, they're the first of the stealth fighter/light bombers. There's something a bit prototypical in that. The very first jet fighters weren't very good. The later-model subsonics were far superior to the first subsonics. The later-model supersonics tended to outshine the first supersonics. Everything seemed to come together nicely for the supercruisers. But now we're into the very first of the fifth-gen fighters and, to get stealth, we're having to sacrifice other qualities like climb and turn rate, range, payload, redundancy, speed and supercruise. Chances are that follow-on Gen5 fighters will recover those qualities. The problem is, they might be on the other side.

    The Genie is out of the bottle. When Iran got its hands on the RQ-170 stealth drone, the Chinese (and presumably the Russians) were able to sample its coatings, explore its design and, most importantly, remove its electronics. That's the very triad of stealth technologies. Then the Chinese managed to help themselves to masses of F-35 contractor data including, it's said, millions of lines of F-35 code. Suddenly out pops China's J-31 which curiously looks like a twin-engine cousin of the F-35. Sheer coincidence, I'm sure.

    And there's my final point. When the 22 and 35 were designed they had fourth-generation adversaries in mind. Now, their technology compromised, they're going to have to face opponents with their own Gen5 warplanes purpose built to exploit what they know about our aircraft. Are we walking into a blunder?

  8. Technological progress is a bit quicker than in 70's ! And Industrial spy are more fficient since technology rised this last 10 years, combined with globalization ! And not mentionning the outbreak of USSR, which layed down the guard of everybody !
    So yes the F 35 can be obsolete.
    I personnaly think since LM responsible no more fear of being executed during a soviet invasion, they allow themself sold bullshit to USA, in order to make personnal profit.

  9. http://www.wantchinatimes.com/news-subclass-cnt.aspx?cid=1101&MainCatID=11&id=20131008000078

    This is a bad news. The Su-35 being sold to China will get AL-41F engines.

    This makes the PLAAF Su-35s unstoppable with the single exception of F-22, because the Su-35's kinetic performance is so superior that it can simply outfly incoming AMRAAMs.

    If the Pentagon really cares about countering China, it must start selling F-22s to its Pacific allies instead of trying to force F-35s.

    1. Slowman, are you smoking something?

      Can a Su-35 pull a 20 g turn? I am sure an AMRAAM can.

    2. no it can't but if the F-35 launches at the very edge of its engagement zone then they can outrun and outturn it so that it looses so much energy its useless....and then turn around and run down the F-35.

    3. Quick lesson in aviation for David:
      -If a plane is going at 500km/h and a missile is doing 5000km/h ,a 3g turn by the plane will force the missile to do 30g...if bouth start at the same time.But the missile will react,so it will have to do more than that.

    4. "no it can't but if the F-35 launches at the very edge of its engagement zone then they can outrun and outturn it so that it looses so much energy its useless....and then turn around and run down the F-35."

      You realize most of the time the pilots BLOW UP without ever even getting the chance to maneuver? Whats FAR more important in avoiding a missile, if its even possible in the circumstances, is the time you detect it and knowing WHERE it is and then using speed and angles to make it overshoot you.

      Saying the Su is going to avoid missile like that so automatically is more than silly, thats only going to happen unless they know almost the second the missile is launched and from where, and odds are that will NOT usually be the case. History has proven thats not usually the case. Statistically the vast majority of air kills has ALWAYS been wen pilots were least expecting it and caught by surprise. From WWI all the way up the the damn present it has been this way, and you want to say stealth doesn't matter? Go study the basics of aviation combat history first and tell me that.

      As for numbers? Some aircraft tactics are very effective at negating numbers advantages. Wildcats during WWII adopting the weave tactic could fight off superior numbers of zeros because the pattern the flew in meant any zero trying to line up for a shot would be putting itself i the crosshairs of another weaving pilot.

      And really having 4 planes against 1 is really not so bad if that 1 plane has a huge surprise advantage. He can fire missiles before they even know he is there and begin running away before they even figure out where he is.

      Raptor pilots report it all the time during exercises, the F-16s just don't have a CLUE where they are while the raptors are watching them like a hawk the whole time. Those are dead F16s.

    5. Lesson for Nuno,

      Its not even half so simple. That assumes the missile is flying right behind the plane and copying all its maneuvers instead of homing in on the target, and ignores the missile can cut inside turns the plane makes by virtue of its approachment.

      Also, if the plane makes a 90 degree change in its angle, the missile needs to make an exponentially SMALLER degree chance to reach the same spot. About 30 degrees, smaller the farther the distance the turn is made from the missile.

      Also, this all ignores that the pilot has to be aware the missile is coming and no WHERE it is all in advance to set up his maneuver. In reality that often doesn't happen, if they didn't see the plane they usually didn't see the missile until it was way too late.

      History has proven this ever since WWI, all the way to the present. Its always the pilot caught by surprise who dies. And they are, inevitably, caught by surprise, ad stealth helps with that much more than anything else.

      Quite frankly, saying the Su will dodge the missile is a perfect world scenario that won't hold up statistically.

  10. Yes...planes cant dodge missiles...http://youtu.be/2uh4yMAx2UA...


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