Battleland

The Saga of the F-35…And the Coming Sequester Flak

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Marine Major Aric “Walleye” Liberman was uncharacteristically modest for a Navy SEAL turned fighter pilot. He had just landed an F-35–one of the 2,457 jets the Pentagon plans to buy for $400 billion, making it the costliest weapons program in human history–at its initial operational base late last year. Amid celebratory hoopla, he declined photographers’ requests to give a thumbs-up for the cameras that sunny day in Yuma, Ariz. “No, no, no,” he demurred with a smile.

Liberman’s reticence was understandable. For while the Marines hailed his arrival as a sign that their initial F-35 squadron is now operational, there’s one sticking point. “It’s an operational squadron,” a Marine spokesman said. “The aircraft is not operational.”

The F-35, designed as the U.S. military’s lethal hunter for 21st century skies, has become the hunted, a poster child for Pentagon profligacy in a new era of tightening budgets. Instead of the stars and stripes of the U.S. Air Force emblazoned on its fuselage, it might as well have a bull’s-eye. Its pilots’ helmets are plagued with problems, it hasn’t yet dropped or fired weapons, and the software it requires to go to war remains on the drawing board.

That’s why when Liberman landed his F-35 before an appreciative crowd, including home-state Senator John McCain, he didn’t demonstrate its most amazing capability: landing like a helicopter using its precision-cast titanium thrust-vectoring nozzle. That trick remains reserved for test pilots, not operational plane drivers like him.

The price tag, meanwhile, has nearly doubled since 2001, to $396 billion. Production delays have forced the Air Force and Navy to spend at least $5 billion to extend the lives of existing planes. The Marine Corps–the cheapest service, save for its love of costly jump jets (which take off and land almost vertically) for its pet aircraft carriers–have spent $180 million on 74 used British AV-8 jets for spare parts to keep their Reagan-era Harriers flying until their version of the F-35 truly comes online. Allied governments are increasingly weighing alternatives to the F-35.

But the accounting is about to get even worse as concern over spending on the F-35 threatens other defense programs. On March 1, if lawmakers cannot reach a new budget deal, the Pentagon faces more than $500 billion in spending cuts in the form of sequestration, which translates into a 10% cut in projected budgets over the coming decade. Two years ago, the White House predicted that those cuts would be so onerous to defense-hawk Republicans that they would never happen. But the GOP is now split, with a growing number of members who are more concerned about the deficit than defense.

Read the rest, which also appears in this week’s print issue of TIME, here.

10 comments
RonnieBaker
RonnieBaker

WE have been through this before. Canceled boon doggles. Just  A FEW,.....B1-A Bombers,B-58 Hustlers,TFX Aardvarks, Valkyries, F-20 Tigersharks,

 ALL Typical government PAID cost plus make work projects. No real concern for the final performance or numbers. To big to stop. ETC. 

In today's warfare,it would behoove us to go back to the old adage of "Keep It Simple". Numbers count, distance and amount of weapons, simplicity of the Aircraft for parts and repairs vs the mechanic skills in the theater. Able to repair and get back in service ASAP.  

Here's just my opinion. I  didn't arrive at it by driving a turnip truck. Retired  after 37 years on just about ever Military airplane that flys. Quality Control Tooling Inspector/Tooling Fabricator.

 Douglas Aircraft,McDonnell, Northrop,Lockheed,Boeing,Apache Helicopters,North American. Many JOB shops just for the extra $$$ to make up for the time lost looking for the next one.

Nuts huh! Laid off 13 times in my working career. One of the pitfalls of the Government aircraft programs. It ain't that secure. When its done its done,your laid off,you know it when you started the job. But,if you have a clean record,no dope smoking etc,wife beating, there's usually a job somewhere else waiting for your skills.

So Keep it simple: F-18 Super Hornets,Harriers,F-15's. F-16's. All proven aircraft,all can be built in big numbers,make work projects etc. Maybe some more B-2 Bombers. Why not.?????

Just build duplicate  tooling and spread the work around.   This is skilled labor. It can be taught. I worked 4 years to get to a Journeyman ON the job doing the actual work. Work side by side a skilled worker under his supervision till I gained the knowledge and took a test to advance to the next skill level, Result more money. Huge incentive to learn. 

When we go off in the wild blue yonder on these Modern day flying complicated systems,there is going to be problems. Can we fix them,sure but,its time and training. In the real world we will be much better with numbers of proven stuff that a normal guy can fly and work on it to keep it flying.

Think about it. If it don't work? It ain't worth to much when you really need it. Kinda like you AR 15,if you can't get ammo??? Now what. Run like hell,zig zag as you run.

AS Always,Ron Baker  



Don_Bacon
Don_Bacon

The annual JSF test report is in:

While the JSF program has recently initiated the fifth of 11 initial production lots, it is only completed 34 percent of the flight testing. The program did not accomplish the intended progress in achieving test objectives (measured in flight test points planned for 2012) for all variants. Certain test conditions were unachievable due to unresolved problems and new discoveries.

The need for regression testing of fixes (repeat testing of previously accomplished points with newer versions of software) displaced opportunities to meet flight test objectives. Overall progress in mission systems was limited. This was due to delays in software delivery, limited capability in the software when delivered, and regression testing of multiple software versions (required to fix problems, not add capability).

No combat capability has been fielded.

Performance
For the second time in a year, performance requirements have been eased. The report revealed that the government’s F-35 program office had changed performance specs for all three JSF variants: the Air Force’s F-35A; the vertical-landing Marine Corps F-35B; and the carrier-launched F-35C flown mainly by the Navy.
“The program announced an intention to change performance specifications for the F-35A, reducing turn performance from 5.3 to 4.6 sustained g’s and extending the time for acceleration from 0.8 Mach to 1.2 Mach by eight seconds,” Gilmore’s report stated. The F-35B and F-35C also had their turn rates and acceleration time eased. The B-model jet’s max turn went from 5.0 to 4.5 g’s and its acceleration time to Mach 1.2 was extended by 16 seconds. The F-35C lost 0.1 g off its turn spec and added a whopping 43 seconds to its acceleration.

Reliability
Overall suitability performance demonstrates the lack of maturity in the F-35 as a system in developmental testing and as a fielded system at the training center.
• Reliability requirements are identified for system maturity (50,000 fleet hours), but the program predicts a target at each stage of development that projects growth toward the maturity requirement.
- Analysis of data through May 2012 shows that flight test and Lots 1 through 3 aircraft demonstrated lower reliability than those predictions.
Demonstrated Mean Flight Hours Between Critical Failure for the F-35A was 5.95 hours, for the F-35B was 4.16 hours, and for the F-35C was 6.71 hours

Maintenance
The amount of time spent on maintenance, or measures of maintainability, of flight test and Lots 2 and 3 aircraft
exceeds that required for mature aircraft.

http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2013/02/pentagon-downgrades-jet-specs/
http://timemilitary.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/f-35-jsf-dote-fy12-annual-report.pdf

Juss2083
Juss2083

Sad... i remember being so excited reading about the f-22 and the f-35 a decade ago. Spend billions on a plane that is overqualified for operation and never gets used (f-22) and another seems like its was just a money making do-it-all cash cow for the global market (f-35). basically we will have 2 planes that were are afraid to fly and too expensive/embarrassing to lose in combat. For this kind of cost US airpower is a deterrent but is not on the same level as nukess.

Juss2083
Juss2083

Sad... i remember being so excited reading about the f-22 and the f-35 a decade ago. Spend billions on a plane that is overqualified for operation and never gets used (f-22) and another seems like its was just a money making do-it-all cash cow for the global market (f-35). basically we will have 2 planes that were are afraid to fly and too expensive/embarrassing to lose in combat. For this kind of cost US airpower is a deterrent but is not on the same level as nukes.

E_L_P
E_L_P

More adventures with the Joint Strike Failure.

sferrin44
sferrin44

You ever figure out how to get a Super Hornet to fly off a gator?  I didn't think so.  *snort* *guffaw*

Don_Bacon
Don_Bacon

It's really a jobs program, meanwhile it looks like India is going with the French Rafale. Perhaps Lockheed could co-produce the Rafale in the US? heh

sferrin44
sferrin44

Why would you want to.  The Rafale is damn near as out dated as the Super Hornet.  That idea has "FAIL" written all over it.

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