Thursday, January 31, 2019

The F-35 - Way Less Bang for the Buck Than Promised.

Aviation Week reports that the oldest F-35B could be put out to pasture in 2026. There's a problem with the too-good-to-be true Joint Strike Fighter. Structural defects may leave the Lightning II with a paltry service life of just 2,100 hours of flight time.

To put that in context, Lockheed, which bought the F-16 jet from General Dynamics, can upgrade the F-16 to increase its service life from 8,000 hours to 12,000 hours. That would be almost six times the service life operators can expect from Lockheed's F-35.

Back in the Harper era the F-35 was pitched as an airplane with a 50-year service life. I suppose if you chose to operate it for 40 hours a year, around 50 minutes every week, you might be able to stretch that out for 50 years. That still leaves you stuck with a hyper-costly hangar queen.


This, from National Interest:

The egregiously expensive and notoriously unreliable F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is even more of a disappointment than you previously thought, according to a new Department of Defense assessment obtained by Bloomberg News. 
The 2018 report from the Pentagon's operational testing and evaluation arm, set for public release this week and obtained early by Bloomberg's Tony Capaccio, indicates that ongoing reliability issues have drastically shortened the service life far below expectations, so far that there's "no improving trend in" available aircraft for training and combat missions — a dangerous combination for a perpetually buggy aircraft.
The only surprise is that any of this should come as a surprise. The F-35 was never going to be more than prototypical, a "stealth Beta."  What Lockheed designers set out to build was a "first off." The F-22 rolled out years earlier but it was a much different creature.

The F-35 is a flying bundle of compromises, shortcomings all stuffed within an already overstuffed fuselage.  If it's going to be stealthy at all, everything that could give it away to an enemy's radar has to be housed inside.  No bombs or missiles or fuel tanks hung beneath the wings, that sort of thing. Everything has to vie for space inside. That means small weapons bays, i.e. a limited payload. Fuel takes up a lot of space and, within the F-35, that dictated fuel bladders draped like blankets over the jet engine. What could possibly go wrong with that arrangement.

The stocky, wide-profile F-35 not only looks fat, like most fat things it has a weight problem. That quickly showed that the F-35 could not meet the military's requirement for take off and landing distances. That led to a brilliant idea. Change the specifications to suit the F-35 could do. At one point, Lockheed's efforts to trim weight led to the removal of the inboard fire extinguisher system. Think of that fuel bladder draped over the engine. Fuel bladder, engine, no fire extinguisher.

The wide profile, seen in the photo above, creates a lot of drag. Excess drag comes at the cost of speed and greater fuel consumption. One of the compromises or sacrifices was the Holy Grail of fighter aircraft, supercruise, the ability to achieve supersonic speeds without relying on the fuel-guzzling afterburner. That's particularly important for a strike fighter that needs to exit hostile airspace before enemy interceptors can catch up to it. When you're already limited in speed and onboard fuel limitations the typical adversary, the Su-33 with great range and twice the speed of sound can pretty quickly run down an F-35 trying to escape. That problem is made worse because the F-35 is not particularly stealthy from the rear aspect and it has one of the worst heat profiles from its exhaust, just ripe for an infrared missile.

Then there's age. Twenty years ago, when Lockheed engineers put pencil to paper, stealth was a revolutionary technology. The F-35 was going to be a 5th generation warbird. They used what they could from the F-22 but had to wing it from there. They set out to make three different warplanes out of one common design a chore bound to impose otherwise avoidable compromises. It was later determined it would have been less costly simply to design three distinct warplanes from the outset.

Twenty years that the F-35's intended adversaries, Russia and China, did not waste. They developed stealth aircraft of their own, assisted immeasurably by the capture of an American RQ-170 stealth drone, electronically commandeered and force landed in Iran, and repeated theft of data and code from manufacturers by Chinese hackers. The bad guys also upped their game on air defences with improved radars, sensor fusion, and better surface to air missile systems.

The worst part about the F-35 is that it revived the idea of a survivable war on China and Russia. It is a first strike warplane. One US general called it his "kick in the front door" weapon. The problem with that idea is that it assumes the adversary won't retaliate especially with missiles targeting the US mainland.

My guess is that, in another 20 years, when the truncated service life of the F-35 is coming to an end, we'll think it was one of the most boneheaded and wasteful military projects of all time.

In any event, between the US Air Force, the US Navy, the US Marines, Britain, Japan, a gaggle of European air forces and the Israelis, there'll probably be no shortage of warplanes for that "kick in the front door" moment should it ever arise. Canada won't be consequential to that.

We simply don't have money to waste on the F-35 just to keep the Pentagon and Lockheed happy. Best we sit this one out. This time, Trudeau called it right.


Simon said...

Why are you back to treating Progressive Bloggers like your personal Facebook page. Don't you give a damn about all the other bloggers you drive off the front page. Are you too stupid to know that an aggregator is supposed to showcase the work of as many bloggers as possible, or are you just too selfish to give a damn. What makes you think anything you write is more important and more interesting than anything the others write? I'm thinking of writing a post asking whether Progressive Bloggers should be changed to the Disaffected Bloggers. You remind me of the blogger Halls of Macadamia at the Blogging Tories, another old loser who writes half the posts published there, and has just about killed that aggregator just like you are doing to Progressive Bloggers. For goodness you nasty, selfish and boring old thing, take a pill, try to control your monstrous ego, or just get a life...

Toby said...

Now that was rude. It tells me more about you, Simon, than you really want others to know.

Anonymous said...

I think you're being disingenuous to a degree. I went and read Aviation Week's article and previously linked ones as well. The Marine F35B is the real airframe dud, caused by too much lightweighting.

Was that the version we were supposed to be buying? I don't think so. Ours has a Tim Hortons Super Poor Coffee dispenser with Google Home AI pilot helmet tube attachment and double-double option button. Also, it points out Micky D Big Mac specials as you fly by. It's stealthy, man.

And stop writing so much, y'hear? Simon, the man who believes Twinkletoes can do no wrong, literally, is upset at your output. But then he's an SNP supporter as well, and the stories of the corrupt bureaucracy under them are getting pretty amazing to read. Just a style note, Simon, Ms Sturgeon's eyebrows are distractingly bushy and remind me of Peter Finch.


The Mound of Sound said...

Simon, one thing that ProgBlog is not suffering is a surplus of content. It has become positively moribund which I assume is how you would prefer it.

Unlike you, Simon, I don't obsess about one topic - Scheer and the Conservatives. I try to inject some variety. Today it's been the Supreme Court of Canada decision, Trudeau's worsening failure to address climate change, the F-35 boondoggle, the demands of indigenous groups to protect the Salish Sea, the environmental peril of desalination, Roger Stone and the Trump gang's vulnerability to technology. Nobody else is writing about these things. I suppose you could have written as many posts about ghastly Andrew Scheer but... you know, dead horses, beating, all that stuff.

At least this time you used your name. Thanks for that.

The Mound of Sound said...

Yes, BM, I understand that Simon is aggrieved. That was never my intent and I hope that, some day, he can forgive me.

You are right about the F-35B. It has the worst service life problem. It's not known, as yet, how the A and C will fare. We do know all versions are unreliable. They're struggling to get a one mission per day sortie rate. The competition regularly hits two per day. This is incredibly important to a first-strike weapon system and the surge demands of an opening offensive.

None of these variants has supercruise nor can they claim stealth cloaking when they have to carry fuel and ordinance as outboard stores. The lack of supercruise is a drag problem that worsens considerably when stores are slung underwing.

Reports indicate that US generals are clamoring for a replacement, a "6th generation" strike fighter that sorts out the F-35s shortcomings. At the same time the Pentagon frets about where it would find the money which is one reason why they're rethinking an updated F-15 option.

I still think Canada should sit this one out and focus on finding an F-18 replacements that meets our defence needs rather than America's.

Simon said...

Good god you’ve got a monstrous ego. You still haven’t answered my question. Do you realize the difference between an aggregator and your private Facebook page. Do you care about hogging all the space on the front page of Progressive Bloggers or do you think that other bloggers should get a chance to showcase their work? And please don’t accuse me of not using my name you old pervert, when Inalways use my real name while you were caught a few years ago sending vile anti-gay messages to me, and god knows how many others. As well as of course going one and on about how Trudeau the “bitch” should be raped in prison. And remember I have the proof thanks to my police friends, and could nail you to the wall anytime I want. So let the air out your ego and your whoopee cushion, try to control yourself, and above all get a life you loser...

The Mound of Sound said...

Simon you know my IP address and you know the IP address of that hateful email you supposedly received and you know they're different even if they did come from this same town.

Anger management, Simon. You might find it very helpful. Does it not concern you that so much of your writing is venomous? Do you need to vilify everyone who sees things differently? Do you think legitimate criticism of your man, Trudeau, is necessarily hateful? Why do you have such an angry fixation on those older (I presume) than yourself?

You're a nasty person, Simon. Very mean-spirited. I am no pervert and that is plainly defamatory. Do you really want to deal with that?

It's curious that someone who throws insults so freely should tell someone else to "control" themself.

Have a good evening, Simon. Tomorrow will be a better day.

Jay Farquharson said...

Monteal Simon?

Probably lost a few readers today.

While I think Trudeau is the best we’ve got right now, and Trudeau isn’t living up to the hype, I think Montreal Simon lost a reader today.

the salamander said...

.. I'll drop in on Simon.. give him a nice hello.. He's a truly fine lad.. I did so just this week already.. but perhaps needs to cool his jets a tich, (hello Simon ! I know you will spot this comment) calm his water.. or hold his water.. he does sound aggregated.. but i worry about Mound or Simon equally .. ie not a'tall .. all growed up men.. Canadian thru n true.. just cut from different cloth & amen amen I sez onto youz .. Peace Love & uh .. something or other eh .. Keep on Keepin on.. march to your own differential diagnosis and drummer.. go big or don't go.. Where th hell is the Rhino Party anyway ?

Scott Tribe said...

For the record, a blogger can post as many blogposts on their personal blog page as he/she likes. There was never a "maximum posts' rule if one joined the Progressive Blogger aggregate. If I had a problem with MoS's # of posts.. I'd have said something long ago :)

I do not personally mind the amount of posting.. Mound of Sound is right when he says there are a lot less blogs posting as in the heyday 10 years ago. Blogs are taking a backseat to lots of other things on social media. Will they ever come back? Who knows. MOS's blogposts just show up more because of that dearth of blogging these days.

I would hope that my statement regarding this will calm the vitriol here.



Blog: Scott's DIatribes
Administrator: Progressive Bloggers
Twitter: @stribe39

the salamander said...

.. the 'last word' sealing the matter evermore - quoth our generous & gracious host.. Scott Tribe ..

BTW Mound.. have been getting a start on 'The Men Who Flew The F4' by Martin W. Bowman.. A good chance you have read it.. If not, just the 'prologue' is a spell binder.. Not enuff time.. too many stunning books and films.. but this book is a champ ! Also.. The salamander family thought 'Bad Times At El Royale' was fab.. even brilliant.. film !

The Mound of Sound said...

No, I haven't read that Sal. I do remember "immersing" myself in the F-4 experience at Baden Soelingen. It was a NATO tac weapons meet. An American team, a flight of four, was about to leave. I snuck out and laid down in the infield.The four of them went into afterburner, eight J-79s at full bore. The raw power reverberated through my body. Years later I had a similar experience when an SR-71 did low afterburner passes over the field in Abbotsford.

Purple library guy said...

So, wait . . . this person is on your case because . . . you post a lot on your blog? And that's, um . . . a bad thing, or something? Because other people don't? And, um . . . it might give people the erroneous impression that progressive blogs as a group are active and have quite a bit to say? Well, darn, how egregious.