Friday, March 09, 2018

Is Neller really touting the F-35B as a modern day Scout?

via USNI News.
The head of the Marine Corps said introducing the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter to American’s amphibious forces is key to the service’s future fights from the sea.

Commandant Gen. Robert Neller said the Marine F-35B variant will prove invaluable as the service shifts away from the ground-based conflicts in Iraq and land-locked Afghanistan back to its traditional role as a sea fighting force. The fighter’s extended range and data collection capabilities can provide targeting information from far beyond the current range of amphibious warships and give Marines better eyes on the battlefield.

“We have to be able to survive, as part of sea control, sea denial,” Neller said.
“We’re a part of the fleet, we’re always going to need protection, but it will be good if we can protect ourselves.”
Ok.  This is the usual boilerplate that we've come to expect from Marine Corps officers with regard to the F-35.

Transformative and key to the future is thrown around with regularity but we've lacked specifics.

But now.

Now the head of the Marine Corps is talking about the F-35's extended range and data collection capabilities as what it brings to the table in a future fight?

Does that mean that the Marine Corps labored long and hard for an airplane that is nothing more than a glorified Scout from WW2?

Check out the portion that I highlighted and focus on what he said.  Extended range and data collection can provide targeting information far beyond current range of amphibious ships and give Marines better eyes on the battlefield.

Now check out the definition of a Scout plane from Wikipedia.
 While the "traditional" role of scout planes was to spot enemy fleets, during World War II scout planes were essential for battleships and other surface warships during bombardment of land targets, as it was difficult to see an enemy position, even with binoculars. The scout plane, for the U.S., this was usually the Vought OS2U Kingfisher, which would fly over the position, giving the ship a latitude/longitude destination. The ship would then open fire on that area, thereby indirectly attacking the enemy, and allowing ground troops or fighter/bomber aircraft to access the area.

Quite possibly the most illustrious use of scout planes were with the sister battleships Yamato and Musashi. Their extremely long range meant that they could fire over the horizon, and scout planes were needed to spot enemy ships. Seven seaplane scouts were carried on each ship, including four Aichi E13A for long-range reconnaissance, and three Mitsubishi F1Ms for artillery direction. Japan also pioneered the concept of submarine-borne scout planes, with a number of large submarines having waterproof hangars and catapults to carry scout floatplanes during World War II.

During the Cold War the role of the shipborne observation aircraft was taken over by naval helicopters. Although less so in Western navies, the role of providing mid-course update via data-link for long range anti-shipping missiles can be seen as directly akin to the artillery "spotting" missions of old. Without mid-course update it would be impossible to fully utilize the full range of long range missiles such as the Otomat, and P-500 Bazalt.

Due to the advanced technology used by today's cruisers, destroyers, and other surface vessels, and the use of ship-launched UAVs for the same sorts of "spotting" missions in the 21st century, scout planes are no longer needed for long range exchanges.[1]
The last sentence illustrates my point.

Why use a hundred million plus fighter for the job that a much cheaper UAV can?

We've seen the rationale for the F-35 shift on an almost weekly basis. We've heard that it can easily replace current fighters and that its kinematic performance is eye watering.  That was proven wrong so they moved onto its stealth making it capable of first see/first shoot...but we got announcements from all over the globe that GaN AESA radars could actually track stealth planes so that had to be dumped too.  They didn't spend much time on the talking point of the F-35 having world class sensors because even a noob like myself could figure out that the AESA it has is hardly something special, its targeting system is a couple of generations behind those carried by current fighters and when looked at critically the sensor system the F-35 has is nothing special.

So now they've locked onto the airplane being a glorified ISR platform as the reason why it will transform Marine Corps operations?

I really want to meet Neller one day.

I so desire to look him in the eye and ask him how he could spout such bullshit to the public and sleep at night.

But back on task.

If the F-35 is only going to serve as the eyes and ears of the fleet...if its best function is provide better eyes on the battlefield for Marines...

If all that is the REAL reason why we need the F-35 then we'd be better off buying X-47Bs, installing ISR sensors on the thing and saving the Corps and taxpayers a ton of money.

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