Monday, February 11, 2013

Pentagon Lowers the Bar on the F-35 - Again!

This line from says it all:

America’s latest stealth fighter just got heavier, slower and more sluggish.

 For the second time in a year, the Pentagon has eased the performance requirements of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF). The reduced specs — including a slower acceleration and turning rate — lower the bar for the troubled trillion-dollar JSF program, allowing it to proceed toward full-rate production despite ongoing problems with the plane’s complex design. Under the old specs, the stealth fighter, due to enter service in 2018 or 2019, probably wouldn’t pass its Pentagon-mandated final exams.

At the same time, newly identified safety problems could force F-35-smith Lockheed Martin to add fire-suppression gear that will only increase the plane’s weight and further decrease its maneuverability. The JSF is meant to be a jack of all trades, equally capable of dropping bombs and fighting other aircraft — the latter requiring extreme nimbleness in the air.

For the pilots who will eventually take the F-35 into combat, the JSF’s reduced performance means they might not be able to outfly and outfight the latest Russian- and Chinese-made fighters. Even before the downgrades, some analysts questioned the F-35′s ability to defeat newer Sukhoi and Shenyang jets. Despite the JSF’s lower specs, Lockheed bizarrely claims its new plane is now more maneuverable than every other fighters in the world except the company’s own F-22.

Lockheed seems to have been flung into panic mode.  They're making truly bizarre claims to duck criticisms.   Last year a Lockheed exec claimed the airplane would get more stealthy with age, even without upgrades.  It would just somehow grow stealthier, magically I suppose if only you plant these special beans.

Incompetent political and military leadership has very nearly saddled the Canadian air force with what has every appearance of being, hands down, the biggest procurement blunder in Canadian history, utterly eclipsing the Sea King fiasco. 

Time is running out on the CF-18s.   Let's get the competition to Cold Lake.   Let's get them all into the air and have them show their stuff in intercept profiles, in ground attack profiles, in strike profiles and in air-to-air combat profiles.  Let's see how far they go, how fast, how they climb and how they turn.   Let's work out how vulnerable they would be to contingencies such as engine failure, ground fire, and the guns and missiles of hostile fighters.   Let's see how many missions each can generate within, say, a 2-week campaign scenario.

Let's get this done.


Anonymous said...

The F-35 will never show up for a fly-off. Lockheed knows, the Pentagon knows and everybody else knows that it's a loser.

The F-35 was an overly ambitious idea from day one, and the project failed. It's time for everyone to accept that and move on.

Steve said...

I just read it in wired. Unbelievable, like denying man made climate change.

The Mound of Sound said...

@ Anon, yeah, you've got it right. The F-35, born out of "acquisition malpractice", was prototypical, a technology demonstrator that should have formed the basis for a more robust, capable warplane but, instead, was shoehorned into a frontline role. Never should have happened.

As a technology demonstrator far too much emphasis was placed on the "latest and greatest" breakthrough even at the point where essential fighter performance attributes were sacrificed. Range, payload, agility, climb rate, speed were all compromised.

@ Steve. Harsh as the assessments in Wired may be, the F-35 gets a rougher ride in aviation-specific publications like Aviation Week.

There's no wonder it only does well in the make believe land of politics.